Playing With Fire

Chapter Eight

Harlow

“What the fuck!” I shouted as a gun was shoved in my face. The man with his finger on the trigger was eyeing me dangerously. He was darker skinned, latino looking with a black, scruffy beard on his chin and cheeks.

“Watch your god damn mouth or I’ll blow your head off.” He spat at me. “What’re you doing here?”

“Are you fucking kidding me? Who the hell do you think you are?” I hissed. Now was not a good time to fuck with me and this guy shoving a gun in my face and demanding that I explain myself wasn’t doing anything to improve my mood. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first gun happy jackass I had encountered. They were everywhere. The world goes to shit, the government crashes, and suddenly everyone thinks they can be in charge.

“I’m asking the questions. You alone?” He asked in a low voice.

“That’s none of your business.” I answered coldly. I could feel my knife pressed against my hip and wondered how fast I could pull it on him before he realized what was happening and put a bullet in me. Not fast enough, a voice in the back of my head warned me. Still, I wasn’t going to wait around to find out what he wanted with me.

“Let her go, Martinez!” A voice came from somewhere behind the man with the gun.

He glared at me hard before lowering the barrell of the gun and stepping back. “Sorry, Governor.”

“Are you alright?” The same voice asked. Calm, collected, concerned. A man suddenly stepped up on the sidewalk next to me, flanked by at least three others I hadn’t seen before. He was tall with dark hair, his voice dripping with the charming facade of a southern gentleman. I’m assuming this was the “governor”, as the other man had called him. “You’ll have to excuse Martinez. We don’t come across other survivors too often.”

I eyed him apprehensively, still on edge. “Look, I don’t want any trouble.” I said slowly.

The governor put up both his hands, a sign of peace. “I don’t want any either. We were just tryin’ to look for supplies when Martinez swore he heard somethin’ comin’ from inside here. So I sent him to check it out…” He explained.

“Well I didn’t find what I was looking for. So I’ll just get out of here and you’ll never see me again.” I said curtly, adjusting my backpack on my shoulders.

“Maybe I can help...what was it you needed?” He asked, his tone implying friendliness, kindness. Something about it set me on edge. His man had almost killed me and now this guy was going almost over the top in an effort to help me. I wanted to turn my back right then and there and walk away. I thought about Merle in the truck, though. Suffering. If this man could help...well, I was desperate at this point.

I let out a sigh of defeat. “I need medicine. Antibiotics. I have someone with me. He’s not gonna make it if he doesn’t get help.”

“He bit?” The Governor asked.

“No, I wouldn’t have him with me if he was.” I scowled. “He cut his hand off somehow, didn’t say. He’s lost a lot of blood and has one of the worst infections I’ve ever seen...I should know. I used to be a paramedic.”

His eyebrows went up in surprise. “You’re a paramedic?” He asked.

“Was.” I corrected him.

He eyed me almost thoughtfully for a minute before speaking again. “You say you don’t know how he cut off his hand? This is someone you haven’t known very long.” He wasn’t asking, it sounded as if he was just stating something he already knew.

“No, I just found him a few days ago.” I explained, wondering why any of this was at all important.

“You sure are goin’ through an awful lot of trouble for a stranger.” He commented good naturedly.

I sighed and fought the urge to roll my eyes, even though I had had the same thought about a dozen times over the past few days. “What can I say? I’m a god damn samaritan.” I said dryly. I ran a hand through my hair before continuing. “Look, he was already in bad shape when I found him. I couldn’t just leave him there to die. And now I’m desperate. So are you gonna help me or not? Because if not, I’m going.” By now, the walkers in the street had started to notice our little gathering and were staggering closer. He nodded at his men who quietly turned and began to dispatch whatever walkers were in range. I watched them for a second, but turned my eyes back to the other man as he started talking.

“I want to help you and I think we can. I don’t have any antibiotics with me, but we have a town not too far from here. With doctors, medicine, everything we need to fix your friend right up. You’re welcome to come with us. Like I said, it isn’t often we run into other survivors but we’re always willing to take them in.”

I furrowed my eyebrows togethers, wondering if I had heard him right. “Did you say…town?”

The Governor smiled at me. “Town, yes. You’ll see. We have a nice little settlement, probably almost fifty people. And like I said, we have a doctor who would be more than happy to look at your friend.”

I chewed my lower lip thoughtfully for a moment. It sounded almost too good to be true. It sounded an awful lot like there was going to be some sort of catch. But what other choices did I have? They had a real doctor and real medical supplies. If we went, Merle had a better chance of living. I nodded finally. “Okay, we’ll come with you.”

He clapped a hand on my shoulder, seemingly not noticing my flinch at his touch. “Good, glad to hear. Now just show me where your friend is and we’ll leave right away. I’ll have the men pull the trucks around.”

“Follow me.” I mumbled, turning and heading towards where I had hidden Merle and the pick-up. The truck was still sitting quietly in the alley and I quickly unlocked the passenger door. The injured man was still breathing, though he was looking worse and worse. I shared an uneasy look with the Governor. “I don’t think he has much longer.” I said quietly.

“I think you’re right.” He commented. “I’ll grab the other men and we’ll move him to one of our vehicles. I hope you’re okay leavin’ your truck behind, but it’ll be too much of a hassle to have you follow us. The way there isn’t the easiest.”

I didn’t like the idea of leaving my ride behind. The idea of being stranded somewhere unfamiliar without a quick getaway made me nervous. The governor must have caught the look on my face.

“Look, we have plenty of extra cars there. The minute your friend is better and you wanna leave, I can give you one. No problem.” He offered.

I nodded slowly. “I don’t think I have a choice.” I sighed. “Let’s move him. The sooner he gets to the doctor, the better.”

“Agreed.” The Governor grunted. He hurried off back to his men and I stayed with Merle, hoping like hell I was making the right call here. If it saved his life, it would be worth it. I hoped. It wasn’t long before the Governor returned, Martinez and another trailing after him. They carefully lifted Merle out of the passenger seat and carried him to the back seat of a jeep parked in the street.

“You can ride up front with me.” The Governor offered as he climbed up into the driver’s seat. I gave one last worried glance at Merle and hopped up in front. Once everyone else was in their vehicles, we set off, a three car convoy as we drove through the abandoned streets. It was the first time I had let myself trust another person since the beginning of the outbreak. I had learned pretty quickly that trusting people now was harder than ever. This was breaking everything in my personal code book and a part of me wanted to throw myself out of the car and run off on my own again. I couldn’t though because, quite stupidly, I had decided to tie myself to the well being of a complete stranger. I just hope he was worth it.

The drive was quiet and I was glad. It gave me time to think. Plus, I was still uneasy of the man sitting in the driver’s seat next to me. Granted, he had saved my life and was doing me a monumental kindness by taking in Merle and I to his so called town. Something about him seemed off, though. His words and his actions didn’t seem as genuine to me as they should have. It was like he had some ulterior motive behind everything he did.

I turned in my seat, craning my neck to try and get a look at Merle in the back. He was still out cold, sprawled across the seat as much as a man of his size could be. I could hear his rattling breathing which was both a good and a bad sign. It meant he was still alive, but for how much longer? I turned back around in my seat to stare out the windshield.

“Are we getting close?” I asked impatiently. I was chewing my lower lip with worry and realized I had broke through the skin when I could taste the bitter, iron taste of blood in my mouth. I wiped my lips with the sleeve of my jacket.

“Almost there. Another couple of miles. Don’t you worry. We’ll make it in time to save your friend.” He said calmly, casting my a sideways glance. I nodded, but didn’t say another word as the scenery outside the window continued to flash past in a blur.

The Governor was right, though, because it wasn’t much longer before we turned the bend of a winding road and a long, menacing looking wall came into view. I stared at it, wondering how long it had taken to build it up. Not that it was much...just overturned busses and sheet metal. It was still pretty impressive looking. Not much was getting in to whatever this town was, which probably meant not much was getting out. Once again, I fought the urge to bolt from the car and take off. Instead, I gripped the sides of the seat with my hands and watched as the governor slowed to a stop right outside the giant wall and signaled to someone perched at the very top. Seconds later, the gates were pulled open slowly. We drove through them and I sat perched on the edge of my seat, a combination of nerves, curiosity and awe coursing through me as I got my first look at the Governor’s town.

“Welcome to Woodbury.” He said.



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