As it turned out, we didn’t actually need a doctor because Cat had some neat pre-zombie first-aid equipment lying around in her backpack. Which led me to wonder exactly how they had it. It was clear they sent people outside every now and again – after all, they found me. And every single visit to the outside tended to use up a heck of a lot of resources. But then again, there was probably a lot of stuff about the bunker I didn’t know, and if I’m completely honest I didn’t really care either.
I lay on the bed at our room in the B&B, a spare sheet and a roll of bin liner underneath me so as to not get blood on the sheets. I had taken off my trench-coat and jumper, which I needed to replace due to all the blood soaked into them, and Cat had cut away the fabric of my t-shirt around the wound, because the blood had welded it painfully to my skin.
“Okay,” said Cat, “this is going to hurt a lot. Try not to bite your tongue”
“Sure” I replied. Considering how bad it already felt, how bad could it-
I must have screamed down half the building, because whatever she did was painful.
“Sorry” she apologised, before stuffing an arm of my jumper into my mouth, presumably as a gag.
And then pain. A heck of a lot of it. I have really bad pain tolerance and I could feel everything. It was just really, really agonising. So yeah, try not to get shot with arrows. They’re designed to hurt people.
“Okay, that should be about done” said Cat, looking down at me worriedly before placing some gauze on my shoulder and bandaging the whole thing up.
Okay, that was slightly better. The wound certainly hurt a lot less now, and I could actually move the joint. I reached up with my other hand to wipe the beads of sweat from my brow, before lying there, completely drained. Dammit. I had never been hurt this badly before. I had never been stupid enough to think myself safe. Something about this town was dulling my edge, and I didn’t like it one bit.
“Thank you Cat” I said, gratefully.
“Don’t mention it” she replied. But she was looking at me with a strange expression on her face, and that was notably worrying. “You’re actually, genuinely crazy, you know that?”
“Oh, definitely” I agreed. “You sort of have to be. Apocalypse rules”
“This world is full of shit” she shrugged. “Civilisation collapses and five years down the line we have slavery, killings, violence and fear. I honestly don’t know whose worse, us or the undead”
I stared up at her. “Just because you got to sit it out in a bunker doesn’t mean you get to judge us. But at least the undead have motives we can understand”
“And what are yours?” she asked.
No, just no. I wasn’t explaining myself to this girl. I wasn’t explaining myself to anyone.
“Do me a favour and never ask that question again”
She sat back, disappointment in her eyes.
There came a knock on the door. Cat moved to open it but I hurriedly caught her wrist.
“Pass me my crossbow and stay out of firing line when opening it” I warned.
After all, the one person I was fairly sure wasn’t going to kill me was already in the room.
Cat hefted Skullfucker from the floor and passed it to me. I sat up, already sighting. At this range, I wouldn’t miss. Giving a nervous glance to me, Cat unlocked the door and pulled it open. When I saw who was behind it, my finger tightened on the trigger. It was the information broker from the bar, now no longer hidden under a hooded cape. She had close cropped black hair, well used muscles and a hideous scar across one cheek. A cavalry sabre hung at her belt, which was covered in pouches of various sizes, but she made no move towards it, looking at us in confusion before nervously raising her hands.
“You have exactly thirty seconds to explain why you’re here or you take a crossbow bolt through your face, got that?” I growled.
“I, I-” she stumbled, looking about the room, a look of panic crossing her face. “Manuel sent me. He wants to meet you. He’s got a proposition for you. It’s very important. Please, I don’t mean to-”
“Manuel wants to see us?” repeated Cat, uncertainly.
But I knew better. The shock at seeing us in here, the stuttering, the nervousness and the fact that she hesitated before telling us as if stalling for time all hinted at one thing.
“You’re lying.” I stated. “Put your hands on your head, then come inside and stand over in the corner”
“No I’m not!” she protested, fear in her expression. “It’s true, he really does want to see you”
She made no move, but her eyes flickered to either side, as if judging whether she could run and make it before I shot her. Then she obediently placed her hands on her head and walked inside, letting the door shut behind her with a soft thump.
“I’m not lying-” she began, but I cut her off.
“Just a few minutes ago we were attacked by a group of people who were trying to steal those nice guns we have. One of them distinctly said ‘we can’t have them getting away, those guns are too valuable’. He said ‘them’, when only Cat had guns on her and the rest were right here, in our room. Now call me untrustworthy but the very fact that you’re even here means you bothered to find out where we were staying, and your timing, just after the attack took place, seems to me a little too coincidental. So you can drop the charade”
All the colour drained out of her face.
“You’re supposed to be dead. Why aren’t you dead? Please don’t tell me you actually are a demon…”
I allowed myself a smile. “Reputation preceded me?”
“I know who you are, Fenrir. You’ve been watched since you first came through those gates. There are those who want you dead for what you’ve done”
“Oh, scary. Sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t really give a shit”
I raised my crossbow level with her neck, looked her in the eye and was about to put a crossbow bolt through her when Cat jumped between us.
“Don’t!” she yelled.
“Get out of the fucking way!” I snapped.
“You were going to kill her!”
“Damn right I am!”
With Cat stupidly blocking my crossbow, the woman saw her chance, running for the door and bolting away down the corridor out of sight. I jumped up and dashed after her, but Cat grabbed me from behind and tackled me to the floor.
“Stop! Are you out of your mind? You were going to shoot her in cold blood!” she screamed in my face.
“What did you want me to do, let her go?” I protested.
“You can’t kill people in cold blood like that. It’s just wrong”
I nodded. “I’m sorry”
“Just don’t ever do it again” she said, all the emotion vanishing from her face.
“I’m sorry” I repeated. She probably found some meaning in those words. “So, seems Manuel’s a bust. She probably made it up. In which case we can’t trust any of her other information either. Back to square one”
“How’re we supposed to find out where my brother is then?”
I thought for a second. Then I had a very, very bad idea. It was glorious, perfect and as I thought it through I could see it solving pretty much every major problem I faced and leaving ‘New Beginnings’ a far better place than I found it. There was only one slight issue – even if I pulled this off, Cat would likely never speak to me again, which was a shame, really.
“Oh, that’s simple really” I told her. “We ask the mayor directly”
“What?” she said, confused.
“We ask him directly, then trade something for your brother’s freedom” I explained. “It’s a heck of a lot easier to just buy him than try to break him out by force. Especially since you don’t seem keen on killing people”
“Oh. I never thought of that”
Of course, I didn’t tell her what I planned to offer. Or that I planned to make the bargain for a complete banning of slavery in ‘New Beginnings’ and the freedom of ever slave in the town. With what I had planned, there was absolutely no way the mayor would even think of denying those terms.
This marked the third time I had ever tried to fix a town without outright destroying part of it, and if I was completely honest I didn’t really want to blow up ‘New Beginnings’, simply because I liked the place. Besides which, it was only guilty of one major crime. However, there were a couple of things I had been looking forward to doing that I now probably wouldn’t have to. The most major of which was firing one of those awesome ballistae.
I felt momentarily bad for Cat, naïve girl, who was looking at me with trust in her eyes. If I was completely honest, I didn’t want to betray her but this would end best for everyone and I definitely planned for her to get out of it unharmed and with her brother, which was what she had wanted my help for in the first place. Besides which, she was going to find out what I’d done at some point and I wanted to be well clear of her when she did.
I tested my shoulder, which felt like it would hold, before moving towards the door. It was time to implement my plan.
“Well, what’re we waiting for? Let’s go and get him”