Night Must Fall Sample #2
Alexa stared into the darkness, able to see much farther than she’d ever been able to before. There were beating hearts in the darkness-two soldiers who had made a cold camp to wait for daylight. She moved toward them silently.
Edward glanced over in time to see Alexa vanishing into the shadows. He didn’t alert the others. She needed a meal. She would find one.
Edward closed and locked the door as he came in.
The group settled into their chosen activities, all of them calmer now that they’d had a bit of action and their mistress was out roaming. Nothing would get by her, leaving Billy little reason to stay on watch. He had reluctantly joined his teammates in the cheery home.
Billy took a place near the small fire they’d started, wondering if the chimney smoke might draw more walking dead to them. He was almost sure the zombies could smell, as well as see and hear. They shouldn’t be able to, but then, they also shouldn’t have been able to run, eat, or bleed. In fact, they shouldn’t even exist.
Billy felt the old, rational part of his brain trying to open the cage door and refused to allow it. The gates that he’d been warned about were wide open now. Zombies were the new reality. The life he’d led before had prepared him physically for this duty with Alexa, but the driver still longed for those he’d parted from four years ago. He’d remembered enough of his life now to understand what he had lost. Billy had been without his memory when Alexa picked him up. She’d sensed Safe Haven on him, but even her magic had been unable to help him fully recover what had happened.
“Someone tell the rookies a story,” Edward instructed, taking inventory of his gear. They shared everything equally, so it made it easy to keep track of their supplies. If he had a week of rations, so did everyone else in the group. Paul had often screwed that up by munching between the set meal times and then begging for scraps while Alexa tried to eat. They’d shut it down when she gave him her meal, taking his food and water so that he couldn’t graze. Now that the rabbit was gone, some of the trek would get easier.
The rookies, Jacob and David settled back eagerly to listen.
The other three men exchange glances that were hesitant.
“If I have to pick it, all the little details will come out,” Edward warned, repeating Alexa’s words to him when she’d wanted him telling a tale.
The three senior men frowned, shifting uncomfortably. All the stories contained failures on their part. They’d been new to Alexa’s way of doing things and accidents had happened.
“I traveled with Safe Haven.”
Five heads turned to Billy in shock. Even Edward hadn’t known.
Billy leaned against the wall and began rolling a smoke. “I was injured in the quake of ’13. Right before that, I had taken a mission to find someone and help bring her to her father.”
Now there was complete silence in the cabin. No one looked away as a distant scream confirmed Alexa’s location.
“I was told it would take years and it has. I needed it to,” Billy explained without embarrassment. “I don’t know what I have waiting for me in that refugee camp, but I had to leave it so I wouldn’t hurt it. Now, there’s no danger of that. I’ve grown up.”
“You’re from Safe Haven?” Jacob questioned, stunned. “And you didn’t tell anyone?”
“I told the only person I need to,” Billy replied, not getting defensive. “She told me to decide on my own about revealing it.”
“Why now?” Edward asked curiously.
“Because she’s sick,” Billy answered, glancing around as if for confirmation. “She needs us to be together and we can’t if there are secrets this big. I feel bad for keeping it so long. I’m sorry.”
Billy’s humbleness drew a groan from the corner. “I wish you hadn’t said that.”
They all looked to Mark, who shook his head.
“Now I have to mention something too. I, uh…well, I killed the President. It’s what I was in the slam for.”
The door opened and Alexa came in, pale and unruffled in the firelight. She closed the door and removed her clock.
“As you were,” she ordered when the silence stretched out.
Heads went back to Mark-even Billy, who had thought he held the largest of their private torments, their secrets.
Edward motioned to Mark, “Can you say that again?”
Mark cleared his throat. “I killed the President.”
Mark ignored the surprised mutters and scowls. It was only the second time he had ever spoken the words and liberation was still a new, exciting emotion to be controlled.
“Why?” Jacob asked. Mark was the one he admired the most in this group.
It was what each of them, except for Alexa, wanted to know. The silence hung while he searched for the words.
“I couldn’t stand the thought of it all restarting,” Mark stated. “At that time, I didn’t think there was any way it could be better and I was so angry! The people I worked for were destroying the world, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Then the war came and the president was gone. Replaced by succession and yet, it wasn’t going to be different. The next puppet was going to stand on the backs of those who came before and keep ruining everything. ...and I had the thought that if there wasn’t a president anymore, then maybe that could change.”
Mark peered at Alexa, who was still removing things from the cloak she’d hung up.
“I was a secret service agent on the new president’s detail. I smothered her while she slept.”
“You’re talking about Marsha Binton!” David exclaimed. “She was next in line for the presidency when Carter died.”
“Yes,” Mark confirmed. “She wanted to make slavery legal-especially males. She said we were a danger to everyone.”
“She wasn’t wrong,” Alexa pointed out.
“No,” Mark admitted, glad when Alexa came over and sat down close to him. “But I’m a man. I couldn’t let that happen. She had to die.”
Alexa placed her hand over his and gently told him,” Murder is wrong. You murdered her. That was very bad.”
Mark’s head dropped.
Alexa squeezed in comfort. “We’re all killers here, of one kind or another. You spent years locked up in payment for that crime. Do you feel like you’ve been punished enough?”
Alexa sighed tolerantly. “Then so you shall suffer more. No one here can forgive you until you forgive yourself.”
“How can I?” Mark demanded. “I murdered her!”
“Yes. Would you do it again?”
He shook his head. “Never. She was only a pawn. I would have gone higher and found those in charge of pulling the strings. I would have murdered them.”
“That would have been an act of the bravest kind,” Alexa corrected. “Take off the head, my pets. Without a head, the threat is no longer a threat.”
Alexa glanced around. “Does it bother you to know this about him?”
All the heads shook. Each of them had their own weakness, their own failures to atone for. Edward especially understood.
“Good. Murder, like all other things, has a place in the world. If he had removed the head, he would be a hero. Because he cut off a tooth, he was a convict. The line between the two can be that thin, but there is always a line. We will attempt to stay above it, but when we have to, we will abide by our own guidelines. Nothing will keep us from this mission. You were each delivered to me for that purpose.”