Monday, July 28, 2014

Chapter 4

(About a week has gone by I think.  I may have lost a day here or there.  I don’t really bother keeping track anymore.) 

Mace will make it if no infection sets in.  The bullet cracked one of his ribs but the rib deflected the bullet so that it didn’t scramble his insides. 

Dylan’s group has an EMT, a nurse, and even a Vet … animal doc not the vet that is a soldier.  Gotta be careful because Dylan’s group has some of those too.  Lucky for them all of their regular medical people are immunes and not carriers.  They have a guy that is a retired doctor but he is a carrier and he’s self-medicating with things like Klonopin, Rivotril, Valium, Serax, Xanax, Zoloft, and Paxil.  The kind of stuff that would have brought better-than-good money on the street not too long ago.  Pretty much whatever he has been able to scrounge up.  But that’s another story which means that it is a good thing Dylan’s group also has two pharmacists.  As a matter of fact they’ve got a lot of smart people that survived the initial out break but for whatever reason didn’t escape getting quarantined. 

I guess if I’m going to use this notebook as a therapist I need to go back and explain things a little better. 

First off, the person that shot Carol was a cop – or used to be a cop, or maybe still is just one that is quarantined with the rest of us.  He heads up the security for Dylan’s group, not Mack like I thought.  Though I wasn’t completely wrong; Mack used to be Dylan’s lieutenant but as the group has grown and started including regular people and not just street people the group’s hierarchy has changed. 

Hierarchy.  Another ten dollar word.  That’s what Mack called it when he explained the situation.  The goober.  I don’t need protecting.  I sure don’t want someone to boss me around.  But he would have stayed outside in the rain if I hadn’t shown him how to climb up and in.  Goober.  Who does he think he is?  I’m not a kid.  God he is such a goober.  More on why he is a total goober when I get the other stuff explained.  

I am coming to terms with Carol’s death.  I hate that phrase.  I hate having to “come to terms” with all the crap around me.  But I guess you gotta just embrace the suck to make it out alive.  I may have come to terms for whatever that is worth but it doesn’t make me happy or relieved or anything like that.  I don’t see it the way Dylan sees it; that she’s been released from her misery.  I don’t see it the way Detective Rodeny does either … Rodney Cash the cop.  He says that Carol was a danger to herself and others and her actions left him no choice.  He doesn’t think that she was a rabid animal or anything like that, just that she was such a danger that she wasn’t going to stop killing on her own, that she had to be stopped.  I’d say he regretted shooting her except I’m not really sure that is true.  But he isn’t bragging about it either which I suppose is something.

I don’t think like Mace does either.  He thinks if he had just tried to hook up with Dylan’s group instead of running them of when they started to scare Carol that she could have been helped.  He tried to live with and ignore her increasing anxiety and paranoia instead of addressing it and dealing with it.  He also kinda blames me for setting Carol off that day.  Actually there’s no “kinda” about it … he does blame me, absolutely and totally blames me.  He got his dig in for sure when he spread my story to all of Dylan’s group.  It was like I was suddenly this dirty thing that no one wanted to be near and they were all giving me the eye like I was contagious. 

I was standing right there when Mace did it.  He wanted to make good and sure that I knew he had done it.  The look on his face was too satisfied for me not to get why.  As a form of revenge it hurt worse than Carol shooting me had.  I was ready to run all over again only a surprising thing happened.  Mack and Chief Rodney all of a sudden started asking questions about Tad and it came out that he was almost forty years old … he’s thirteen years older than Paula.   

Det. Rodney asks, “What the hell is a forty year old man doing fooling around with a teenager, even if it was supposed to be a joke?” 

Well then most of the guys – especially the ones with daughters – changed their tune.  Some of the women too; but enough were on the fence that I doubled down on my refusal to stay with Dylan’s group.  I don’t need or want that kind of grief.  I’ve accepted the consequences of what a fool I was and am learning to live with it.  I don’t need or want the kinda grief I would get by trying to prove myself over and over and over every day just so a few people can feel righteous.  When the hullabaloo settled down and everyone went off to their “apartments” – what they’ve turned the hotel rooms into – I snuck away from their “clinic” and came home after snagging a couple of Percocet for my arm. 

I would have had to walk back to the 4x4 but Mack drove me back after he caught me a block from the hotel.  He says that the group is so big now that it gives him heartburn and that he’s glad Det. Rodney took over security.  That being responsible for that many people wasn’t what he had signed up for. 

With a regretful kind of tone Mack explained, “Dylan tried to make me into something I’m not.  It was driving me crazy.  I’m tired of being told I’m not living up to my full potential.”  But I didn’t’ find that part out until later.  At first he just asked a bunch of questions about being alone and on the street.   He finally left off and left me alone though after I proved that I could drive and I was able to finish escaping.

It took me almost four days to deal with the meat and stuff from that haul and some of the meat nearly spoiled – should have done it first but I was trying to make soups and stews and a mix of things all together.  I had to start by cleaning the ancient kitchen so I could set up the propane cooker in there.  God, the stove looks like it belonged to the witch out of that Hansel and Gretel story.  If I hadn’t packed all the food in those funky Styrofoam containers with the dry ice in them that had been in the walk in freezer where I found the meat half the stuff would have gone over and I would have wasted all that effort.  Had to use the regular coolers for the non-meat stuff or it would have wound up useless too.  I used the dry ice to try and save the bananas I found and they wound up such a mushy mess when they thawed that I was lucky to make banana preserves with them and a couple of banana fruit cakes that I put in cookie tins wrapped in booze soaked cheese cloth.

Yeah, I took the fancy booze that I found there too; and, regular booze that I’ve found other places.  What of it?  Ok, so maybe I shouldn’t have but on the other hand I figure it might come in handy for something.  It is hidden though, big time because I don’t want to make myself a target for anyone else that might try and flop here.  I’ve been lucky so far but better safe than sorry.

But all the moving the canners and coolers around … geez. When the Percocet ran out I lived on Tylenol and Advil and Rolaids to deal with the acid upset and then as soon as the last canner was done I pretty much slept the clock around once and a piece.  I woke up and had to run to the port-o-potty ‘cause the inside bathrooms don’t work.  After some much needed relief I stepped out and nearly passed out when I opened the door and there stood Mack with an extremely annoyed look on his face.  He had to stop in mid-lecture while I puked from hunger and then insisted that either I came with him to have my arm looked at or he’d knock me out and take me there anyway. 

“Willing or unwilling.  Don’t matter to me,” Mr. Crankypants snarled. 

Geez.  I was too weak to fight but was feeling just ornery enough that I gave it some thought before giving in.  I let him drive me to the hotel after I decided I wasn’t averse to knowing whether my arm was going to fall off and take the rest of me with it. 

Doctor Shepherd – the doc that is a carrier – was the guy on duty when I showed up and he told me, “You don’t deserve to be as healthy as you are.”  Translation:  I was ok and too lucky to be polite to.  Fine.  Whatever.  Found something else out though and it explained the way Carol was acting a little bit.   

I grumped to Mack, “I could have stayed home for what he dished out.  What’s his damage?  It’s not like I was asking for him to kiss it and make it all better.” 

“Doc needs to adjust his meds again.  Rodney is going to have to set someone to watch him I guess.” 

“What?  He’s got mental issues or something?  PTSD?” 

He was briefly surprised and said, “Well it seems I know something about the plague you don’t.” 

Still smarting from the doc’s exam and words I snapped, “Well don’t just stand there looking all superior and junk.  Fill me in already.” 

Mack snorted then leaned against the wall of their clinic’s waiting room.  “Carriers … they aren’t like immunes.” 

“No kidding.” 

“I’m not talking about them being able to infect other people although there is that.  But as I understand it part of the reason why they can do that is because … carriers … they don’t really get well exactly.  If they are medicated they can keep the symptoms to a minimum but every time the … the psych drugs stop working or they can’t take them on schedule … they deteriorate a little more … sometimes a lot more.  The Doc … he self-medicates and is able to keep it mostly under control.  And he’s sworn all the staff to keep an eye on him to make sure he takes his meds on time.  But … he also made Rodney swear that if he gets to a certain point that he won’t stand in the way when or if the Doc wants to end it.  And he’s made Rodney and a couple of other people promise that if he gets to be a danger to others and doesn’t end it himself that they’ll do it for him.” 

Carefully I said, “I heard stuff at the hospital.  People were … were signing orders to … to euthanize family members.  Some of the staff offed themselves when they found out they were sick.  It’s one of the reasons I was able to get away.  Some orderly slit his own throat and the staff …  Geez.  That’s … that’s too bad about the carriers.  I … I guess that’s what happened to Carol isn’t it.” 

“Probably.”  He hesitated before saying, “You couldn’t have helped Winx.  She was getting too far gone.  She could have been drugged to oblivion … I’ve seen it done but … I don’t know …” 

“Mace wouldn’t have done that.” 

“He’ll come around.” 

I shook my head.  I knew Carol and Max.  I was just fooling myself that they would have ever just up and let bygones be bygones.  I wasted my time going over there with that food and got Carol killed in the process.  I knew it.  Mace knew it.  Time to face the facts.  “No, Mace will never come around or forgive me even.  Carol was his life and while he might get over it enough to not need to blame me out loud, there’s going to be a part of him that will on the inside … a part of him that always will.” 

Mack said, “Getting a little deep in here.  Gonna need waders pretty soon.  You’re obviously feeling sorry for yourself.” 

I shook it off and said, “I don’t.  I just have to be realistic.  It is the only way to live without making a fool of yourself.” 

I was about to tell him I wanted to leave when Det. Rodney found us and “asked” me to come with him.  Det. Rodney is like all the cops I’ve met; they may “ask” but the truth is they are telling you what you will do.  It turns out that he and several other people from Dylan’s group wanted to pick my brain about where I had been finding all the food, the canning equipment, and stuff like that. 

Trying to stay out of trouble I told Det. Rodney that, “I’ve only taken stuff that would have spoiled or will spoil before people come back.”

Det. Rodney sneered and said, “Well we haven’t so stop acting holier than thou.  This is a refugee situation and since we’ve been abandoned to our own resources but have a duty to protect and provide for the weaker among us.  People can just lump it if they don’t like it.  We take what we need.” 

Wow.  Interesting viewpoint for an authority figure.  After I finally trusted that he wasn’t trying to entrap me or something like that I told them, “Houses give me the heebies.  There are still enough people that I’m afraid I’m gonna get shot or something.”  Someone snorted and said something rude about me having already been shot but I ignored it.  “Grocery stores have pretty much been gutted.  If they weren’t before the mandatory evacuation they sure as heck are now.  Same for the big box stores although some of them have things like salt, seasonings, and cooking oil left.  I’ve got all that stuff that I need so y’all can have at it.” 

Det. Rodney sighed and said, “Stop and focus kid.  You don’t need to justify it or explain how.  What we want to know is where did you get the produce and meats in that truck you were driving?” 

I shrugged trying to not irritate him any more than it looked like I was already doing.  “Warehouses down in the commercial district.  Some of it came from down at the docks.     I figured stores and restaurants have to get their stuff from some place and it wasn’t going to be the grocery store like the rest of us.”  I didn’t tell him that I’d already heard stuff through the homeless grapevine when I’d been on the street.  When there are only so many dumpsters to dive through and you are trying to feed a bunch of friends you use all the creativity you can get ahold of.  “I started hitting restaurants early on trying to figure it out though most of those places have already been cleaned out of the obvious stuff.  Then I saw this bulletin board over the desk of some mom and pop kinda place and there was a sales flyer for something called a restaurant and supply depot.  I went to that address, hit pay dirt, and have been hunting and pecking ever since.  Sometimes I get lucky, twice as often I don’t.  It’s, you know, like whatever it takes.” 

The lone woman in the group said, “What about what Mack said … you put stuff in jars.” 

I gave Mack a dirty look and then stuck my tongue out at him just because I wanted to.  Det. Rodney cleared his throat like I was getting on his last couple of nerves so I turned and told him, “My family kept a storage unit.  They kept all of their jars and stuff in there.  Well, I took my mom’s share of it.  My mom and Aunt Trudy were raised old-fashioned and when they grew up lived all-natural and organic and stuff.  I wasn’t given a choice except to learn how to do that junk.  It was like family tradition or responsibility or whatever you want to call it.  Doesn’t anyone know how to do it in your group?” 

“We’ve got books.  And one of my helpers helped her mother when she was growing up.  All we need is equipment.” 

“Don’t look at me.  I’m no crystal ball.  Have you checked hardware stores, Walmart, or the Dollar Mart?” 

Like there was no question she had the authority she told me, “You have to show us.” 

I wasn’t feeling any love and started having visions of chains and cages.  “No way.  Forget it.  I’m no trained monkey.  You have more than I had when I started, at least you’ve got people to buddy up with and share the load.”  I got gone as quick as I could after that though that took a few slick moves as it seems like no one wanted to let me get gone except for Mack who was going to give me a ride.  At least he was before he found out all the vehicles were spoken for.  He was going to get a crotch rocket next but they were all being serviced.  His face said what I was thinking.  Then he got called away because some kid got lost in the hotel someplace. 

Not taking any chances I snuck out a service entrance and started putting one foot in front of the other.  I wasn’t looking forward to the long walk home but then laughed in relief as I remembered where I’d seen a couple of bikes in a pawn shop about two miles from the hotel.  A half hour later I climbed up the exterior service ladder and then dragged my tired butt up and over the second story window sill I had broken into last time I was there.  

My arm was thumping again so I sat down and tried to wait it out.  If I hadn’t I might not have heard them. 

“I said we lost her.” 

[radio noise] 

“No.  Didn’t hear an engine.” 

[radio noise] 

“Look, don’t blame us Mack.  If you had done what Dylan and Rodney had told you to do we’d already know where the girl was staying and with who.” 

[radio noise] 

“Right back at you asshole.  I don’t care what you think.  If someone is in our territory we need to know.  And they’re either for us or against us.” 

[radio noise] 

“Yeah well Dylan doesn’t make all the rules anymore does he?  This is a democracy and he got out voted.  He can take care of the spiritual stuff, the rest of us will take care of everything else.” 

There was more radio noise but the two men had moved so that I could no longer hear them clearly.  I forgot about my arm as I realized I was in serious trouble.  I thought about what I’d heard and realized I knew three things. 

1 – Mack meeting me wasn’t an accident. I was pretty sure about that already but now I knew for sure. 

2 – Dylan wasn’t in complete control of the group anymore if he ever had been. 

3 – Mack had lied.  Not to me, but about me.
Points one and two bothered me but didn’t surprise me too much.  Point three made me curious and that did freak me out.


  1. Hummmmm? Better watch her back pretty close.

    Thanks Kathy

  2. Kathy this story is great, thanks for sharing with us. I am looking forward to more when you can.