My head began to clear as I was dumped in the back of the wagon. The man and woman from the hill were seated across from me. Squirrel and John were in the back. Betty, Matthew and Darrell were up front. We were being pulled by a four horse draft team. We were in a modified hay wagon that someone had rigged to be pulled by horses instead of a tractor or truck. The remaining space was filled with a couple coolers, lawn chairs and blankets.
I sat up with my back against the metal piping that formed the wagons 10 foot side walls. Squirrel jumped up with my Glock in his hand. The goon, John, laughed under his breath. I reached above me and pulled myself up a bit. John stopped smiling and began to rise.
“John, there’s no need.” Matthew spoke up. “Your rudeness won’t be tolerated Ed. If you run your mouth you’ll be hog-tied and gagged. After John finishes with you. I’m sure you understand my meaning.” I didn’t answer him. I understood and he knew it. What he didn’t know was I wouldn’t let things go. We were headed back to Braxton Narrow. At the current pace we’d be there by dusk.
We road along most of the day with no real problems. We came across a few zombies but Matthew just had John to deal with them. John dispatched the zombies in a number of ways. He used a large homemade blade most of the time. The thing was about two feet long with one sharpened edge. It tapered down to a leather wrapped handle. During one of John’s forays in zombie slaughter the woman known as Laurie slipped me a note. This foray John left his “hacking” tool behind. He grabbed a zombie by the head and squeezed. Its head popped like a ripe melon. He knocked a second one to the ground and stomped its head into the dirt. I read the short note while the others watched the show.
‘I’m Laurie and my husband is George. We were administrators at the state hospital in Lewiston. Matthew and his friends were patients. They’re insane. We tried to escape and they broke George’s ankle. Don’t make them mad. They’ll kill us all.’
That explained a lot for me. Matthew was like a Manson type. He was the brains and the manipulator. The others were followers for one reason or another. It was obvious what John’s job was. Matthew had control of John and wielded him like John wielded his hacker.
We started down the road again. John wiped his hands off on Squirrel’s shirt. That led to a one-sided shellacking. John was laughing the entire time. Squirrel sat in his corner like a whooped dog.
I figured I’d mention the history of our destination to Matthew in case he had any sense left in his head.
“Matthew, we’re coming up on a small town.” I told him. It was infested with zombies a couple days ago. You might want to stop short of town so we don’t…”
“If I want your advice I’ll ask for it.” Matthew barked at me. “Shut your mouth.”
We travelled another mile when Matthew spoke up. “We’re camping here. Pull to the side and post the horses Darrell.” He looked over his shoulder at me as though I was in his space. “John, Squirrel take ‘ED’ and gather some firewood.” At least we were south of Braxton Narrow.
The goon grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me from the wagon. “I’m coming.” I said as I pulled away. John stood up in front of me with a big grin on his face. He wanted me to see how much bigger he was. He was right about that. I stand 5’11” and go about 210. John was nearly a foot taller then I was and a solid 290. There was no way I would go head to head with him. I’d have to play along. My chance would come.
We walked out into the woods and I started picking up deadwood. John and Squirrel watched. Squirrel was trying to ignore John. He walked away and John followed him and pushed him in the back.
“Leave me alone you big fucking asshole.” Squirrel yelled. He tried to push John away but John wouldn’t budge. They didn’t hear the moan while they scuffled. I dropped some of the wood and acted like I was going to walk further into the woods. “Where you going ‘ED’?” Squirrel noticed me walking away. I picked up a large piece of deadwood and started back to the camp. I passed by Squirrel, looked him in the eye and said nothing more than “Wood.” He shoved my shoulder and I continued walking back to camp.
We got back to the camp and I dropped my wood near a rock circle that George and Laurie had dragged together. I started stacking the wood near where George sat on the ground.
“Listen, don’t talk.” I whispered to George. “Get ready to run. If you can ride move to the horses and be ready. There are zombies…”
“Come on ‘ED’.” Squirrel ordered as he waved my Glock. “We need more wood.”
I walked into the woods with my two bodyguards again. I looked at Squirrel and shook my head.
“What’s your problem ‘ED’?” He demanded.
“I’ve got no problem Squirrel. You have the problem.” I answered. “You’re lower on the totem pole then Big John there. You’re obviously smarter than he is.”
“Shut up and get some sticks asshole.” He said. “I know what you’re trying to do.”
John chuckled at Squirrel again. Squirrel was a bit of a livewire and had enough of John. He picked up a piece of wood and threw it at John. “Here,” He said, “do something useful and carry some wood.”
John’s smile disappeared. He threw the wood back knocking the Glock out of Squirrel’s hand. John then pushed Squirrel on the ground. Squirrel came back at John with a piece of wood in his hand. He hit John as hard as he could with no affect other than to piss John off. I started to slide away when I heard the breaking branches and another moan. I looked beyond the scuffle and saw them coming at us. They were shuffling along as fast as they could through the woods. There were about a dozen zombies and they had a bead on us.
Squirrel and John hadn’t seen or heard the zombies yet. Their scuffle turned ugly. John picked up Squirrel and slammed him against a tree. The zombies were closing in. I started backing in the opposite direction. John slammed Squirrel against the tree a second time. Squirrel went limp and fell to the ground. John bent over and lifted at Squirrel’s chin. He was finished. John looked up at me with rage in his eyes. I was already backing quickly. I looked passed John as a zombie closed on him. John followed my gaze and turned his head to come face to face with a zombie nearly as tall as him. John grabbed it and threw it back in to the woods. I turned and ran. I looked over my shoulder and saw John running behind me. A couple zombies dropped on Squirrel’s lifeless body. I reasoned that I needed to outrun John at this point. I got to the road and was about 200 yards from the camp. I looked in the opposite direction and saw another dozen or so zombies start shambling as fast as they could toward us.
George and Laurie were with the horses on the other side of camp. Betty, Matthew and Darrell were at the campfire. Matthew was cooking something in a skillet.
“Run!” I yelled. “Run, zombies.” I could hear John coming up behind me. I could also hear a other footfalls closing. I didn’t dare look back. John’s long legs had brought him even with me. I still had a piece of wood in my hand just for this reason. John went down with a thud after I hit his knee with the stick. John’s screams told the story. Matthew stood up and began walking toward the zombies with his hands out as if inviting them in. Betty and Darrell turned and ran toward the horses. George and Laurie had already jumped up on one of the drafts and were heading down the road at a rough trot. I ran by Matthew and grabbed the skillet off the campfire. Darrell forgot his rifle. He was turning around to retrieve it as I hit him dead in the face with the hot skillet. He hooked my leg and I dropped in the gravel on the side of the road. I looked up to the horses and saw them pull away and run off as Betty tried to get on one. I jumped up in time to see Matthew go down in a pile of undead. John had half a dozen zombies on him and he fought for nothing. I could see the bites all over his body. Darrell started to get up I took three quick strides toward him and swung for the fence. I heard his skull crack. Darrell sprawled backward and lay on the ground in the fetal position. I turned and began to run again. I could see the horses far down the road. In my right peripheral I saw Betty climbing the hill toward town.