Book Two: The Moon Will Fall

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Chapter 11

“But souls can’t be sold. They can only be lost and never found again.” – Ray Bradybury

Zaria padded tiredly across the sundried dirt on her return into town. The sun was just cresting over the horizon as she finished her morning run. She yearned for the caressing and relaxing hot water of the showers and for the chance to rinse the crusted mud and grime from the backs of her legs and be rid of the lingering scent of body odor that clung to her skin.

“Zaria, might I have a moment?” Petrovich called from behind her. She turned to see the old man walking slowly after her and she smiled half-heartedly. She took one last, longing look in the direction of the showers before turning on her heel to face Petrovich.

“What’s up pops?” She asked, using her arm to wipe a bead of sweat from her forehead. As he drew closer, Petrovich spotted several fresh scars on the woman’s arms and pondered how she had gotten them. “Knife training,” Zaria chuckled, noting the man’s curious gaze.

“Ah, that explains it. I hear the trick to winning a knife fight is to not actually get cut,” He teased.

“I’ll keep that in mind for next time. Did you need something? I don’t have very long. Virus is having me run a patrol with Murphy as oversight to decide if I’m squad leader capable,” Zaria explained.

“Then I’ll make things quick. Your place is closest, shall we go there?” Petrovich offered. Zaria nodded and motioned for him to follow her.

“You’re lookin pretty serious, starik. Everything alright?” Zaria questioned, noting the crease in her companion’s thoughtful brow. He smirked at the Russian word for old man and nodded his head.

“Da malinki devochka, everything is fine. Just thinking,” Petrovich replied as the two reached the rusting tin door that barred the way into Zaria’s quiet home. Zaria snickered and pushed the swinging door open and, after letting Petrovich through, followed him inside.

Petrovich took a seat at the nearby table, groaning as his knees bent. Zaria wondered just how old the man was. Hell, the War had been countless decades ago.

“Drink?” Zaria asked, pulling a half-empty bottle of clear liquid from the nearby cabinet. Two glasses clinked sharply in her hands as she strode over to the table. Petrovich waved his hand in polite dismissal.

“Its too early for me, thanks.” Zaria shrugged and poured herself a glass of the pungent, bitter liquid. Re-corking the bottle, Zaria took a slow drink. Petrovich looked away from the woman until she set down her glass. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt that the diligent consumption of alcohol wasn’t something she did because she wanted to; at least not anymore.

“So? What’d you want to talk about?” Zaria inquired, reclining in her wooden chair and resting her arm over the backrest nonchalantly. Petrovich inhaled deeply and patted his hands on the table in a short, sporadic beat.

“Zaria, you understand the general aspects of the Augmentation Process, correct?” He started.

“I do. What about it?” She asked.

“Well I’ve found a way to make another Mercenary. The only issue is that there’s no way to recreate the anesthetic normally used to prevent the subject from experience horrendous amounts of physical and mental trauma,” Petrovich pressed on.

“So the subject would have to undertake the transition of bone and muscle reconstruction without any relief. Something like that could drive someone insane. Hell, it could kill them,” Zaria frowned.

“Correct, but if they were strong willed enough to persist through it, that person would be the world’s next Mercenary... and last hope for taking down Seraph,” Petrovich continued to explain. Zaria had stopped drinking her alcohol and stared down at it solemnly.

“And if they didn’t survive it intact?” She asked. Petrovich was quiet for a few seconds. The only sound was the barely distinguishable patting of boots and carts on the street outside.

“Then that person would either die, or become an uncontrollable psychotic mess that would have to be eliminated,” Petrovich said slowly and without confidence.

“Shit... Guessing you’ve already got someone in mind for your science fair project,” Zaria stated, feeling that she knew the answer already. Why else would he have taken the time to explain this to her.

“I want you to undergo the process, Zaria. You’re the only one with a good enough reason to keep your mind intact. You’ve had everything taken from you. With this you could pay Seraph back for all of that,” Petrovich announced sternly. Her body was already stiff through the beginning of the conversation, but at his offer, Zaria’s body locked like stone. She looked glassily into Petrovich’s eyes, wrinkled around the edges like the rings of a tree. He looked determined, like he knew this was the only path to go down.

“No,” Zaria said decidedly. Petrovich sighed deeply.

“Might I ask why?” He pressed.

“It’s too much of a risk. If I went crazy, how many people could die? And if I died, then I wouldn’t ever see Rogue again. There has to be someone else,” Zaria explained.

“There isn’t,” Petrovich stated, standing up with a groan. He stepped toward the door and pulled it open. Turning his head back, Zaria was still seated in her chair, pouring herself another glass of vodka. “You’ve lost a lot Zaria. You could have the strength not to lose anything else. I’ll be around if you change your mind.” Zaria didn’t answer. She instead took a long, slow drink from her glass until Petrovich closed the door on his way out. Once she knew Petrovich was out of earshot, Zaria launched her empty glass across the room with a shout where it shattered into dozens of tiny shards that clinked dully onto the floor. Dropping her hands onto the table, Zaria pushed herself onto her feet and punched the tabletop as hard as she could.

“Fuck!” Zaria shouted angrily. She gritted her teeth, trying as hard as she might to resist the urge to smash anything else in her fury. “What the hell is wrong with him? Dangling something like that in front of me? Fuck you!” She seethed loudly. When her enraged fit ended, the raven-haired woman exited her home, slamming the door behind her. She made for the loading area, dodging passed several carts laden with goods for sale that morning. She ignored the smiles and nods from the people that recognized her and headed out of the gates where Murphy was shoving several days supplies into the back of a filthy, green transport vehicle.

“Mornin kiddo. Ready for this?” The Irishman smiled. Zaria grunted and helped him lift the rest of the equipment into the truck. There were only a few crates. Apart from the rations, one was filled with a handful of breaching charges, another with a pair of rocket-propelled grenades and another with their launchers. A group of four men made their way toward them as Zaria shoved a crate full of rations inside. Amongst the on-comers lumbered Grant, still wiping the morning tiredness from his eyes. All four men were donned in light, black gear, and anti-knifing vests that were overlaid with Kevlar. Standard M4 rifles rested easily in their thoroughly trained hands despite the drowsiness on their faces.

“Get in the truck you lazy fucks,” Murphy hollered. Zaria smirked at the smile in his voice and glanced over to see Grant flipping his old friend the bird.

“Its too early for your shit, paddy,” Grant jeered, earning a chuckle from the other men. Zaria shifted her rifle over her shoulder and tightened the revolver strapped to her thigh. Each of the straps a literal life line that she secured to her body.

“Alright guys,” Zaria called, gathering her team around her. “Before we head out, let’s get through the rundown. Tanner and Virus’ contacts said there’s been some unusual troop movement to the north. A small town called Hayfork was just wiped out.”

One of the men sucked in a sharp breath at the name. “Hayfork? Jackson’s stationed there,” he said concernedly. Murphy stepped forward at the mention of Jackson and spoke levelly.

“We got a short radio burst before the line went dead. All Tanner heard was screaming and gunfire. Its safe to assume no one made it out. Not even civvies,” Murphy informed in frustration.

“We should check the neighboring camps, see if anyone saw anything then,” Zaria stated. She tied down the last crate with a black cord and hauled herself into the passenger seat of the transport vehicle. Both Grant and Murphy exchanged concerned glances before following suit. Grant climbed into the back of the vehicle as Murphy clambered into the driver’s seat. In moments the truck was barreling down the road, old metal music blaring and crackling on the ancient stereo system.

Murphy twitched with each metallic slash that hissed at his side as Zaria diligently sharpened her knife, honing it to an obsessive level.

“Alright talk. What’s your deal?” Murphy demanded, turning the music down and ignoring the shouts of protest from the back of the truck. Zaria breathed out sharply, pausing in her grinding as the truck dipped sharply into a pothole and jerked violently.

“Don’t worry about it, just got a lot on my mind,” She answered.

“Well you better stow it before we get on site. Your head needs to be here kid, for our sake and yours,” Murphy said in a fatherly tone that forced Zaria to bite back a bitter response. Instead she sheathed her knife and glared out the window. She knew he meant well, but that didn’t stop her from wanting to take a swing at him. Murphy grumbled to himself and slowly turned the music back up, earning pleased vocalization from the men in the back.

For ten hours, neither of the two soldiers sitting at the front of the vehicle spoke. The truck jostled and shifted, creating creaking and banging that filled the mute void. Suddenly Zaria sat forward and pointed out a green sign that was thoroughly eaten through by rust and age. Scrawled across its shotgun-peppered face were the words, ‘Hayfork.’

“Looks like we made it,” Murphy announced and pounded his fist against the back of the truck. “We’re here boys, look alive!” Zaria dropped the volume of the stereo into silence and readied her assault rifle in her arms. Tall Red Wood trees loomed ominously overhead as the truck barreled down the dirt and mud road. Murphy brought the vehicle to a complete stop at the closed gates of Hayfork, gave Zaria a look that screamed for her to get her head in the game and jumped out, weapon hot. Zaria followed suit and kept her head low as she ran up to the gate and pressed her back to the wet wood. She snorted as she inhaled an odd, sickly sweet scent, but couldn’t place where it was emanating from.

The sun was beginning to set and they needed to clear the area before it got too dark to see clearly. Zaria listened intently for sounds of life behind the walls as the rest of the soldiers lined up to enter. She indicated for one of the men to loop around the side and for Grant to take the other side of the compound.

Murphy nodded to Zaria and both reached to haul the gate doors open. They were heavier than she had anticipated and Zaria held back a building groan from the strain required to pull the massive doors free. When finally a gap was made that was large enough to fit through, Murphy slipped between them with his weapon ready to fire. Zaria and the other soldiers followed swiftly behind him. Each groaned at the sight before them. Zaria shuddered as a cold chill slipped through her spine. She quickly stepped over to the wall and vomited onto the soil, coughing as the fluids left her body.

“Good god...” Murphy shuddered. Zaria moved to his side, spitting the remaining vomit from her mouth. She repositioned her shirt around her nose to attempt to nullify the putrid scent of decaying flesh from the field of bloated corpses before them. The bodies lay scattered, their mouths hanging open. Flies and insects infested the gaping wounds and slashes decorating the bodies of the fallen.

“We… we have to see if there’s any survivors. Murphy, you do that while I check the bodies for anything useful,” Zaria said shakily, heading straight for the field of slaughtered innocents.

“Grant, stay with Zaria just incase,” Murphy insisted.

“Yeah, sure thing,” Grant agreed.

“Guys, cover your mouths and noses. We don’t want to breathe in this air,” Zaria called out as she stepped over a male corpse that seeped fluids in a small pool around itself.

Murphy pulled a black bandana from his cargo pants pocket and tied it around his face to cover his nose. Zaria watched Murphy for a several heart beats. He lunged over several corpses as cautiously as possible, fearing he may slip on some bodily fluid or another. When, handgun drawn, he finally cracked open the door to one of the many scattered residences, Zaria exhaled slowly and took a deep breath through her mouth. Lungs filled with fresh oxygen, she knelt down to the nearest body and began her investigation.

She moved swiftly from body to body, spending the least amount of time possible at each. From what she could gather, there were as many bullet-ridden corpses as there were those with their throats cut. The larger bullet wounds appeared to have come from some of the soldier’s own weapons, as if some other force had controlled those soldiers. Zaria scrunched her forehead in frustration before hurriedly moving over to a soldier whose gun was still in her hand. Examining the woman’s limbs, Zaria could see trace outlines of bruises along the woman’s wrists and forearms.

“She was forced?” Zaria pondered. Ignoring the telltale signs of a broken neck, Zaria pulled the gloves off of the cold, lifeless hand and closely examined the fingers. Almost all of the small joints were shattered by some crushing weight, but what had actually caused that level of trauma? Zaria sat back on her heels and stared down at the limp corpse before her with scrutiny and as much apathy she could muster despite the smell of death that loomed in the air around her.

“Zaria!” She heard Murphy bark over the rummaging and pacing of the other men. Each step in the direction of the brash, Irish soldier was haunted with new faces trapped in their mortal demise. It was not something Zaria knew she’d be able to forget anytime soon. At the very least, Hayfork could be a martyr, something to drive everyone at New Kennedy into a frenzy of anger and disgust. It bothered her, slightly, that she thought of so many casualties in such a way. Not as only a massacre, but instead the means to an end. A means by which she might track down her lost partner and bring her home. It was with that knowledge in her clenched fists that she was able to trudge through the field of bodily fluids and flies to where Murphy sat, holding a man’s head up as he drank from a canteen of water.

“A survivor?” Zaria asked softly, kneeling down onto the murky soil.

“Yeah, he managed to get outside of the walls of the compound before being finished off,” Murphy answered. However it wasn’t the words that told Zaria anything important. It was the way Murphy’s shoulders were as rigid as steel. How not even when he addressed her did he meet her gaze. The man, whose head was cradled in Murphy’s lap, was breathing shallowly. Each haggard breath was growing weaker and weaker as he exhaled them through cracked and bleeding lips. Zaria could tell just by the way that the man lay that he was paralyzed, and the small trail of blood that trickled from his open mouth hinted telltale signs of severe internal bleeding. The man was going to die.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered morosely. The man in Murphy’s care swiveled his eyes from the deadlocked, thousand-mile stare he had adopted. His eyes were dry and bloodshot, but they still held a small trace of determined strength. Strength he mustered into two final words.

“Yellow eyes,” He whispered. As the final words left his lips, Zaria saw the light of life and pain leave his tired brown eyes. Murphy looked knowingly up at Zaria, but she hadn’t noticed. The cold dread that shot through her like a bullet quickly consumed her thoughts. It filled every corner of her mind, paralyzing her like the man whose life was lost. It pinned her feet to the ground and ignited with kerosene the last traces of hope she still grasped at like leaves in the wind. She again saw the bruises, the broken limbs and necks, the bullet wounds, the gutted bodies and the countless corpses scattered like cattle.

It was a strange feeling, the cool, damp and lifeless sensation she felt. It was utter hopelessness that couldn’t make her shake or quiver, cry or scream. She simply felt nothing. And then she felt that ice begin to melt. In the span of seconds, in that short realization the glacial frigidity that had consumed her swiftly melted into warm, steadily rising heat. The sensation was explosive, like boiling water trapped inside of a steel drum, heating and expanding until it burst, scattering shards of shrapnel in every direction, caring not how its reaction affects the world around it.

“Zaria…” Murphy started cautiously, noting the dramatically shifting and contorting face of the raven-haired woman. Her cold, dead gaze had grown furious and filled with hate in seconds. Not the reaction he’d expected from a woman who just learned her girlfriend was a mass murderer.

“Give me the keys, Murphy,” Zaria said soullessly, holding her hand out for the transport keys. Murphy eyed the extended hand cautiously.

“No,” he decided, taking a slow step forward. His hands were open and relaxed, but in an instant Zaria could tell that the taught muscles in his arms and shoulders were ready to strike if need be. Zaria’s expression changed in that instant. Stepping toward Murphy, Zaria grabbed him by the side of the head and shoved him into the nearest wall. When he tried to fight back, Zaria trapped the oncoming elbow and flipped him onto his back like a ragdoll, earning a grunt of pain from the veteran.

“I wasn’t asking!” She hissed. It fit her luck that Grant arrived when he did, wrapping his massive arms beneath Zaria’s and locking her into a full nelson. Her feet dangled nearly a foot and a half from the ground, floundering as they tried to make purchase on firm soil.

“Easy!” Grant grumbled, struggling to contain the woman thrashing in his grip. “What the hell’s going on?”

Zaria ceased her flailing almost immediately, realizing her reaction was unfair to her friends and team. If they were to trust her and take any risks on her behalf, they needed to know she could stay calm under duress.

“Do you want to tell him or should I?” Murphy asked, rubbing his hand against the small of his back. He picked himself up off of the ground slowly, feeling every ounce of pain from his short and disastrous flight, courtesy of Zaria Airlines. Grant eyeballed Murphy with poorly concealed confusion, and humor, before lowering Zaria carefully back onto her feet. The small-framed woman adjusted her clothing irritably, biting back the urge to snap at Grant for catching his hip holster on her probably bruised rib cage.

“According to this guy,” Zaria breathed, “Rogue killed all of these people.” Grant blanched. Zaria half expected his eyes to pop from their sockets. The realization that all of their searching had been in vain was enough to make Zaria nauseous, but the anger kept everything back. Right now all she could see was red.

“How is that possible? She would never-” Grant started.

“She has before,” Zaria groaned, rubbing her fingers into her temples to try and ease the tension built up there. She couldn’t help but wonder if the semi-immortal woman was trapped in some paradox where she was forced to relive mass murder on repeat. And if so, did that mean someone would have to put her down? Would she? Reaching down, Zaria fished a thin, dented canteen from her pocket. Unscrewing the lid she drained a large portion of the dark warm liquid into the pit of her stomach before turning her darkened gaze on Grant.

“Right, but before she was a different person. This,” Grant protested, pointing at the field of bodies, “This doesn’t add up. We need to keep looking around.”

Zaria nodded shortly and stomped off toward the east side of the compound. Her anger took her over several slopes of ancient rock and asphalt and through the dead shell of a pre-war home that nothing more than a rotting skeleton of wood. The scent of the water logged wood and strong aroma of earth overpowered the stink of bile and the deceased for a brief moment. Three more steps and it was gone, the overwhelming perfume of decay assaulting her once again. She looked around this new area of Hayfork quickly until her eyes fell on a small cathedral not far from where she stood.

“Well son of a donkey dick,” Zaria muttered. Drawing her revolver, Zaria moved quickly and quietly toward the dark opening of the small building. It was damaged, and the white paint on its surface had faded and peeled its way into an ominous appearance. She wondered why churches were always so creepy when no one was in them, but quickly shook herself of the thought. Not the time. Taking two quick breaths, Zaria turned into the entryway, revolver sights lined up perfectly in front of her. However as soon as she saw the interior, Zaria knew that no one would be inside. Rogue had already left. Colored glass covered the front of the lecture floor. The lectern appeared to have been tossed into the nearby wall and smashed against the doorway to the ambry. As Zaria drew closer, she spotted the pastor face up on the floor with his throat slit.

“There’s no way,” Zaria muttered. She stared down at the dead man of Christ and bit back the urge to scream in frustration. Looking over to the left, Zaria noted that the glass of the front window had been shattered with a giant piece of the kneeler, a single wooden beam where church goers would kneel to pray or take communion. The piece seemed to have been ripped from the center, wrought iron legs and all. Whipping her head around, Zaria captured an inkling of a thought that fired a hail of clarity through her head for the first time since she’d stepped through those massive gates. She bolted to the door of the church and ran her hand along its frame. There, burrowed into the frame were five small pits spaced just far enough that a small, feminine hand could fit the grooves perfectly.

“She came here to pray,” Zaria realized. Whether she felt more elated than confused by that realization hadn’t dawned on her yet. Either way, Rogue hadn’t killed these people willingly. Not if she came to beg for help. Zaria knew about Rogue’s time with Sister Clarice and the children. She knew that Rogue had a deep respect for the church, even if she didn’t maintain a concrete belief in God. But if she did want to speak to someone, this is where she’d have gone. It was the same type of place that saved her soul before. And the children, Rogue never would have harmed the kids in this town unless something else drove her. Zaria smiled, bitterly, but for the first time in months she smiled. Finally they had a lead to Seraph and to Rogue. Zaria needed to inform Grant and her leprechaun mentor Murphy.

The two men and the remaining unit had gathered around to discuss what to do next. They were in earshot when Zaria came around the corner of a wooden building patched with aluminum sheeting and plywood. She opened her mouth to shout out when movement on the hill to her left caught her eye. Squinting her eyes, Zaria made out a dark clothed, human shape with its eye pressed to the scope of a long-range rifle. Zaria’s pulse thundered in her ears. Each beat like the frame of a film as everything took place during the miniature Armageddon. She tried to cry out, to warn them, but the words were too late leaving her lips. The assassin fired, and the gates of hell came screaming open.

Murphy collapsed instantaneously with the crack of the rifle. It was like Zaria too had been shot. She watched in what felt like slow motion as Murphy fell. The once wise man Zaria cherished and looked to like an older brother struck the ground, lifeless. Before she could understand what her body was doing, her rifle was in her hand and she was firing countless rounds up hill. With a click, Zaria reloaded the matte black weapon with a full magazine and continued to fire. The assassin ducked back behind the lee of the hill and out of sight. It was then that the explosions started.

One after the other, grenades and IED’s concussed the world around the soldiers of Lance. Blood, limbs, bones and body matter were flung all around as if the Devil himself had come to play. Screams of the dying filled Zaria’s ears, shrieks of pain and gurgled cries that accompanied the mass of desecrated human bodies. Zaria dropped to her knees and screamed. Silent, scalding tears dripped hot and wet from her eyes and poured forth onto the ground; each drop falling for every soul and friend she had just watch be torn to pieces in the most painful way she could imagine. Zaria clutched her assault rifle to her chest, hugging it tightly as if to hold back the surge of agony. She wept openly, until, after what seemed an eternity, rustling from down the street caught her attention.

Sucking in a ragged breath, Zaria lifted the sights of her weapon level with her eye and shakily raised herself from the dirt.

“Move and you’re dead!” Zaria barked haggardly. Her voice sounded weak and feeble even to her. She couldn’t imagine anyone would feel the slightest ounce of intimidation at the sound of it.

“Zaria? Is that you?” Grant’s muffled voice called out. The tension in Zaria’s chest released ever so slightly like a fist loosening its grip on the blade of a knife.

“Grant!” Zaria clambered to her feet and staggered forward as quickly as her trembling legs could handle. Struggling as she tripped over scattered piles of debris, Zaria managed to reach a wooden wall that had pried itself free. Cautious not to shift it in the event that something had pierced Grant, Zaria knelt down in the traumatized dirt and peered into the dark space beneath the wall. The sun had finally set during their investigation and it had become increasingly difficult to see.

“Grant? Are you okay? Did anything penetrate you?” She asked. She could just make out the whites of his eyes and the outline of his massive form despite the encroaching darkness.

“Not that I can tell. Also, not a good enough reason to use the word penetrate,” He mused. Good, if he was joking then he was probably fine.

“Okay, on three you need to push if you can. I’m going to lift from my end.”

“Do it,” Grant grunted out. Judging by the breathlessness of his voice, Zaria could assume the weight was mostly on his barrel of a chest. If she didn’t move the wall soon he could suffocate from a lack of oxygen.

“One, Two, Three!” She counted off. Lifting with her legs, Zaria groaned and the hard muscles in her arms bulged with strain. She could feel the rotten wood splinter and break beneath her fingers. Hot blood leaked from the hardened skin and oozed down her digits.

“Don’t drop it on me,” Grant begged.

“Shut the fuck up and push!” Zaria gasped. It took several attempts, each freeing Grant bit by bit until he was able to shimmy out from beneath the wall. Zaria dropped next to him, exhausted and covered in sweat with her head hanging limply on her defeated shoulders.

“How many?” Grant asked gravely after what seemed like an eternity. The sun had set completely now and they were entirely enveloped in darkness save for the stars on the moonless night. Eerie shadows danced across the decimated compound with each gust of bone chilling wind.

“Everyone,” Zaria whispered almost inaudibly. Grant breathed out slowly, haggardly. After a moment he pushed himself up off of the ground and lumbered off into the dark. Zaria was glad that he’d taken a moment for himself. She couldn’t handle him seeing the searing hot tears of guilt that she felt trickling down her cheeks. Why had she survived? If she hadn’t taken off in her rage then maybe she’d have spotted the group that had murdered everyone, murdered Murphy. If only she’d taken Petrovich on his offer. Then she’d have been fast enough to stop this from happening. She could have saved everyone. There came the heavy crunch of footsteps in her direction and Zaria quickly brushed the tears from her face. She realized how stupid that was as she did it. There was no way that Grant could see her face in this darkness.

“Here,” Grant offered gruffly. Zaria reached out and felt her fingertips bump into something hard. The clink of her fingernails gave off the telltale ring of a glass bottle. Perfect. Zaria took the bottle gratefully and raised it to her lips. She cared not how he found it, or how he even knew where the alcohol was. All she cared was that the biting warm liquid of the Irish whiskey was the only thing keeping the all-consuming darkness from swallowing her whole.

“Petrovich said that he could make me a super soldier,” Zaria confessed mutedly. She didn’t need to see it. Zaria could almost here Grant’s head swivel in her direction so quickly she figured it safe to assume that he had whiplash.

“Like…?” He started off.

“Yeah, like those three,” Zaria confirmed, taking another slow swig of the whiskey that sat between them.

“Are you gonna do it?” He asked. She wasn’t sure why, but for some reason the way that he asked it comforted her. In such a way that he didn’t care whether she did or not, but that he would support her with what she deemed best. She was quiet for a long time. So long that it was safe to assume Grant thought she had ignored the question all together. When she finally spoke, she almost laughed at the way he flinched.

“I am. Someone’s got to get Murph a little payback. Might as well be me right?”

Grant huffed a short laugh through his nostrils and took the bottle of whiskey in his hand. He tilted it over and poured a small amount onto the ground between them.

“Hear that you paddy bastard? You’re gonna have company soon.”

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