We buried Mason and Gavin in a small garden on the hospital grounds. It felt strange burying them while a pile of charred bodies with no hope of a proper burial lay just around the corner. The short ceremony consisted of Kate telling us that Mason was a good officer and a better man. Don informed us that he and Gavin had been planning to buy a house together, and then he burst into tears.
No hymns were sung, no prayers said. Just two shallow holes, two bodies wrapped in blankets and two mourners stood beside the graves when everyone else had left.
“I didn'’t like him,” Jim said to me as we walked back to the hospital. “But I was glad he was our side.”
If it hadn'’t been for Mason, I would never have managed to escape from the Chief Inspector. 'I was going to miss him.
Sean and his group chose not to pay their respects. They didn’t explain why, but it seemed clear to me that they felt guilty, and didn'’t think they would be welcome. That was probably the right call, but it also widened the rift between us.
That night, our small group retreated to the third floor of the hospital. We found a clean ward with more than enough beds and staked our claim to it.
“This looks good,” Jim sat on the bed that faced the door. “We need to stay together, in case any of those fuckers downstairs tries anything.”
“I don'’t trust any of them,” Kate said.
“They'’re bricking it,” Dexy opted for a bed on the far end of the ward. “Most of '‘em don'’t look like they'’ve ever even taken a beating, never mind dished one out.”
Gemma and Dodge took the beds opposite Dexy. Barney walked up and down the ward wagging his tail and sniffing the floor like a detective combing for clues.
“The problem with scared people is that when someone starts telling them what they want to hear, they latch on to the fucker and before you can say ‘civil war’, the mob rules,” Jim looked through the windows that stretched along the whole back wall. “We have to leave before they start building crosses to fucking crucify us on.”
“Nobody came up here with us,” Kate stared down at the floor and her left foot tapped a beat full of nervous adrenalin. “Not even the ones who helped us today.”
Dodge stretched across from his bed and poked Gemma in the side. “Where'’s your boy, Travis?”
Gemma shrugged. “Not my boy anymore. He probably found the pharmacy.”
“I thought you two was a thing.”
“Yeah, till I found out he was a lying junkie.”
“Leave her be, Blud,” Dexy grabbed a scrap of paper from the bedside cabinet beside him, crumpled it up and launched it at his brother. Barney jumped up and caught the paper missile before it reached Dodge’s head.
“Good boy,” Dodge patted Barney on the back and grinned.
Like Gemma, I also suspected that Travis had gone back on our agreement and decided to get high. I would have sent Jim to find him, but there was already enough to worry about, and besides, Jim had said we should all stay together.
It was close to midnight when all the lights went out. There were some gasps and cries from the survivors in the entrance hall, but they quietened down once the hospital'’s emergency power kicked in. We looked out of the window and watched the comforting glow of street and building lights snuff out like dying stars in a graveyard solar system. The only thing to break the darkness was the orange hue of fires; thankfully, none of them were too close. I started to wonder how long it was going to take those fires to eat their way through the whole city.
“Phone service and internet is dead,” Gemma looked at the screen of her phone and sighed.
“We need to go and get supplies tomorrow,” Jim turned away from the window. “Can we get the minibus?”
“Dexy told me that Sean owns it,” I said.
“Of course he does,” Kate said. “Nothing'’s ever easy with you lot, is it?”
Jim chuckled to himself, “It’s ‘us lot’, not ‘you lot’. You'’re part of this group as well, sweetheart.”
“She'’s right though, Bruv,” Dexy rested his head against the cool glass of a window. “This is hard work. No way he'’s just going to hand the keys over.”
“Can you start it without the keys?” Gemma asked.
“What?” Dexy stepped away from the window and narrowed his eyes. “Cos I'’m not white means I know how to steal cars?”
“No. That'’s not what I meant,” Gemma looked shocked that he had angered so quickly.
“No,” Jim said. “It'’s because you'’re a fucking criminal.” He stared at Dexy for long moments and then at the black abyss that used to be our city, our home. “Can you start the fucking thing or not?”
Dexy scratched his head vigorously and tapped the toe of his blood spattered white Nike against the wall beneath the windows. “I don'’t know, maybe.”
“Good to know.”
Gemma quickly punched Dexy’s good arm, the sudden jolt forcing a sharp intake of breath from him.
“Dick,” she walked across to the door on the other side of the room and peered through the thin strip of safety glass that ran down it's left side.
“Anyone out there?” Jim watched her reflection in the window.
Gemma pushed her face up against the glass and looked to the right and then to the left. “No. I think we should barricade it though, for tonight.”
“Yes,” Jim nodded slowly in agreement. “Yes we should.”
“Why would they stop the phones and internet?” I understood that cutting off the electricity and gas lessened the risk of explosions and meant that once the infected were dealt with, there would still be a London to come back to. I just couldn'’t figure out why they would stop any survivors from contacting their families, friends, or even emergency services.
Jim sat on his bed and placed his huge hands on his knees. “They don'’t want anyone to know that people are still alive.”
“That'’s stupid,” Gemma said. “What'’s the point?”
“The point,” Jim raised his head to see that we had all turned to face him. “The point is that if the rest of the country believe that the city is fully infected, no survivors, the military can get the green light to mount a clean-up operation. Killing everything that moves is a damn sight easier than rescuing civilians that could be carriers of the infection.”
“The bodies outside prove that'’s how they'’re thinking,” the words left a bitter taste in my mouth. “They were never going to let anyone out alive.”
“So what, did the government do this?” Dodge leaned over to scratch behind one of Barney'’s ears.
“God, no. Even they wouldn'’t do something this insane,” Jim rubbed a hand across his bald head. “They'’re shitting themselves that it will spread. Not letting anyone out is pure fucking damage control.”
“So we'’ve got those things out there,” Gemma pointed at the city beyond the windows. “And the army wants to kill us, too?”
“The people downstairs are going to become a problem as well,” Jim said.
“Never easy,” Kate shook her head and turned back to face the windows.