Dilemma Part 4

1230hrs, June 21st Harbor town enclave Entry Gate.

It was a nice day, Salinger thought as he glanced up at the blue sky, with a few ragged clouds. A better day than he would have expected after last night. despite the sunlight that warmed his skin with its gentle kiss, he felt cold and exhausted. The death of Waters had hit him hard, harder than he would admit to any one.

He was a man who had been raised to keep his emotions bottled up, sealed away from others and it ate at him today. He wanted nothing more than to sit and watch the water and remember his friend, but he couldn’t he had one last responsibility to the people whom he led. For once in his life he was going to make things right, and then he would move on leaving them in the hands of some one better suited to lead them than he had been. He would at least leave knowing that he had succeeded.

He cupped his hands around his mouth and called out “Hello the Gate, I want to speak to Brinn, you can tell her Salinger is here to make a deal” He almost laughed at the looks on the faces of the men before the gate, then one rushed away to deliver the news.

The gate opened and five men stepped out, their weapons ready but not pointed at him. At least they weren’t going to kill him immediately, he thought, surprised to find that the idea of being killed at this moment didn’t bother him. It should bother him, it would be the ultimate failure in a life full of failures.

He smiled for a moment as he remembered something Waters had once said when he had commented on having a life full of failure. “a life full of failures, bullshit Man, you survived the dead, you got these people organized and you’ve kept them going all this time. Anything you’ve failed at since then wasn’t because you didn’t try, but because it just wasn’t possible no matter how much you wanted it to be.” He missed Waters, who had been the one true friend he’d had in his entire damn screwed up life.

His stomach rumbled, hunger had been his constant companion for so long he barely even noticed. They aren’t eating much better than we are, he realized with something like shock as he studied the guards. Waters might have been right after all, he thought.

A wind gentle as spiders silk blew over him, the smell of water and grass filled his nose, he could hear a flight of birds over head and smell the wild flowers that waved in the weed filled grounds under the golden light of the sun. It was one of those moments so intense that a man thought it would burn itself into his mind so that for the rest of his life he would be able to call it up like a favorite movie and relive every minute of the sights, smells and textures.

Then pain flared in his side, and the sound of a gun shot rolled over the area, Salinger gasped in pain, hands flying to his side trying to staunch the flow of blood that gushed from the wound. He heard men shouting in surprise and anger but it was distant that shouting and it didn’t mean much to him. He staggered forward then fell to the ground as a second shot rang out. As the world was being swallowed in a thick gray mist, he heard. “Get a stretcher and Sandy, Tiembo take two squads, that shot came from the roof over there.” then nothing.

Tolman smiled as Salinger fell, sprawled out in a slowly growing pool of blood. He slung his rifle and rose to his feet, as Morgan rushed out of the gate trailed by ten other men. “you get to live for today Morgan, but you sided with the wrong person.” He said aloud and headed for the roof access hatch.

He was whistling by the time he reached the ground floor and stepped out into the sunlight. It was a good day, a fine day, he thought. Erin is on the ropes and will be gone soon, dead shortly after. Salinger is dead, Walter is dead and Mathias will be in control in two more days, yes it is a fine day.

He smiled, the end of the world had brought him the life he had wanted, power, violence and respect and soon it would bring him women, food and anything else he wanted. Might take Noel for my wife, breed her a couple of times then dump her ass outside the Enclave. Yes the end of the world has been good to me.

He walked purposely towards the building Mathias lived in, smiling at the people he passed. As he reached the front of the building, Mathias stepped out with his bodyguards all of them men Tolman had picked and trained.

Hearing boots on the pavement, Tolman turned to see two security teams approaching, he smiled mockingly at Chet Stoutmyer and Yance Tiembo who led the teams.

“Tolman, stop right there” Chet called out in that familiar rumble. “ your under arrest for murder”

“Really” Tolman replied, smiling in satisfaction as people began to gather. “I shot Jakob Salinger, the man who has raided the Enclave, killed our people and has been an all around asshole. That is not murder.”

There was shocked silence from the growing crowed as they heard Tolman speak, then an angry murmur of agreement rolled through the crowd. Salinger was hated by most in the enclave. “Salinger was a dog, he deserved what he got” some one in the crowd shouted causing Tolman to smile in satisfaction.

“You people should have taken him out, that’s what you security idiots are supposed to do. Tolman only did you job” another called out.

“why do you people get extra food, if your not really keeping us safe.”

“Bet that trader gets food from Erin, that’s why he is shacked up with her and her slut girlfriend.”

“Every one calm down, Tolman will face a trail and jury like any one else who is accused of a crime” Tiembo shouted.

“yeah a rigged trial.” A voice called out. “probably kill Tolman two minutes after the guilty verdict.”

“Please every one, I understand your anger. But lets not be rash” Mathias said stepping through the crowd to stand beside Tolman. His dark eyes fixed on the Security detail. “Gentleman I point out that there is no where for Tolman to go, even if he wished to run away which he assuredly does not. Therefore, I suggest you leave him in my custody until such time as a trial can be arraigned. He and I as his lawyer will, if necessary, gladly stand before a Jury of our peers on this matter. What is your answer Yance Tiembo.”

1320 hrs, Harbor Town Enclave, Office of Security.

Morgan was so angry he wanted to break things, instead he sat heavily behind the desk he called his own and looked at Tiembo, who was no happier than he was. “You did the right thing Yance, if you had pushed the matter there might have been a riot.”

“It doesn’t sit well with me, Salinger was here to talk. Who knows he might have been about to surrender.” Tiembo said. “But with him dead, the rest of his group will probably attack.”

“He was” Morgan said with a thin smile at Tiembo. “and he isn’t dead, but that is not to be repeated outside this room Yance. Oh he is going to die, probably painfully according to Sandy. There isn’t anything we can do for him, to much damage and Sandy is afraid that Salinger will come down with something called blood poisoning, the bullet shattered a couple of bones. But the good news, such as it is, Salinger is talking with Erin right now.”

“But I thought….

“We all did, but he wasn’t dead, just damn close to it and barely hanging on. But Salinger is a stubborn man and refuses to let go till he finishes what he started.” Morgan explained.

From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey

With the shooting of Jacob Salinger, things have gotten worse here in the Enclave. Erin Brinns Opposition has been going all out to make her look soft, incompetent and insinuated that she might be hiding food.

The more I learn about this Mathias, the more I want to put a bullet in his head. I had hoped that this kind of politicking and just plain callous manipulation of people for gain was a thing of the past that maybe the end of the world had changed people for the better. Maybe it has changed a large number of them for the better but its naïve to think that even after fighting for survival against the dark, that every one has become decent selfless souls. Well the Dark didn’t die and go away, and the war is still on, its just gone back to be subtle, I only hope that something like the dead rising doesn’t happen again.

Back to the important stuff. From what I was told a few minutes ago, The Head of Enclave security sent a some men to arrest the man who shot Salinger. When a crowd of the shooters supporters protested, the security teams were called back and left him to go free. they were worried about a riot and people being hurt. I can understand that and having to violently suppress a riot wouldn’t help Erin one bit. But this will only make things worse.

On a brighter note I managed to establish contact with Henry, they will be returning sometime late today or tomorrow, Norman is loading his boat down with everything he can safely squeeze on board. It will take him years to salvage that ship, if he just uses himself and his boat.

Norman has also agreed to pick up Stephanie, apparently when he found out we are using Radios and sat phones to stay in contact, he has decided we have to have far more to offer than just the location of a couple of wrecks to salvage and is eager to hepl. Kind of the way Henry was when we got to know each other. Its amazing how excited people can become over something like picking up a phone to talk, something that once was completely taken for granted and its impact on their lives rarely even considered till it was gone.

I remember when we got those old phones hooked up to that switchboard we found in Moultrie and how people actually cried when they heard the first ring from the test call.
I teared up myself, as stupid as it feels to admit it now.

1415 hrs, June 21st, Harbor Town Marina.

Erin stormed down to the dock, where seven men sat under guard. They looked a sorry mess, she thought, with Black eyes, bruised knuckles, a few even had some broken bones.

A couple of fishermen were cleaning up the mess from the fight, occasionally casting angry glances at the seven men. “Come to see the idiots” Steve Darnell boomed as he appeared on the deck of the boat moored beside the dock. “they were under the impression that we were ordered to hide fish. Showed up here demanding more fish to feed their families.”

Thankfully, they had not damaged the smokers, being more interested in taking the fresh fish stored in the barrels and boxes before it could spoil.

“We aren’t going to sit here and starve while you people eat well” one man said, his name if Erin remembered correctly was Ernest Stafford. “we are starving”

“So Ernest, you decided attacking Steve and his fisherman and stealing food was the answer.” Erin said, then shook her head sharply. “every one gets rationed the same amount, except for the security teams, you know that and we are not hiding food Ernest. I do not know how to prove that to you. I could let you search every room in the Enclave and some one would still insist I had food hidden in a hole outside the enclave. So you tell me how am I supposed to prove something is false when no one is willing to believe the truth because rumors insist we, no I am hording food and letting you starve.”

the Seven men were silent, one even hung his head and looked embarrassed. “we are all hungry, but I promise you the food problem will be solved and soon.” I hope it is, she didn’t say. Mathias you son of bitch, your behind this. “Go home okay, I will do everything in my power to fix this problem so we all get to eat more.”

“you have two more day’s” Doug Channing said as he rose to his feet, absently probing around his black eye and wincing. “I will hate to do it Erin, but I will vote against you at the meeting if you haven’t figured out how to fix this. Mathias at least has a plan.”

Sure he does, talk and keep talking hoping you don’t notice your still hungry, she thought. But she couldn’t say that because it people would just take it as a petty vindictive thing meant to smear Mathias, not as the truth, which it was. “do what you feel you have to do Doug, I can not blame you for following your conscious. We still have a democracy” what Mathias makes the Enclave once he is in power will be something different I’m sure. But again she didn’t say it aloud.

Doug, a glimmer of respect in his eyes, rose to his feet along with the others. Erin stood and watched as they walked stiffly away. “its going to get worse,” Steve said respectfully as he climbed down onto the dock. “you’ve got some steel in you Erin, but be prepared Mathias is going to do everything he can to get voted in.”

“Yesterday, he was one of the most disliked people in the Enclave” Erin said, “now…” That wasn’t entirely true of course, yes he had been and still was intensely disliked, but he was also very good at saying all the right things and he was using his connection to Walter and Walters death to full advantage.

“With Walter dead, they only have him to look to.” she said looking towards the building where Mathias lived for a moment. “Trust me most of Walters supporters cant stand him, but they do agree with some if not most of what he is saying and he was publicly friends with Walter and that leaves him as Walters representative. The man is good at taking advantage of every opportunity that comes along.”

“Erin,” She looked up hearing her voice being called. “Erin, we have a problem..”
She sighed heavily it was going to be that kind of day.

1400 Hrs, June 21st, Harbor town Enclave South zone.

After the guard had enclosed Harbor town Marina along with two large areas to the north and south of the Marina, people had worn paths down tromping from building to building. Back when there had been several thousand people here, Bob thought as he consulted the map he carried. Clean up teams had been working all day, but things had gotten chaotic with the fights and arguments and no one was sure if every area had been inspected and cleaned. So here I am checking things out, Bob thought as he cut down a pre dead path that would take him to the southern barricade. Really it was a HESCO barrier, an expandable portable wall made of heavy wire mesh and lined with a heavy-duty fabric. Once expanded front loaders had rolled up dumping sand, dirt, rocks anything they could find.

Originally, the barriers had been designed for use on beaches and marsh flats to stop erosion, then other industries, FEMA and the military had discovered the barriers potential and had ordered their own supplies.

The type the guard had used initially were the military version, which were deployed from containers carried by a Hemet PLC, which allowed them to run several hundred meters of barricade in minutes, filling them took longer but not long enough to have been a problem. There had been almost ten miles worth of barrier delivered but most had gone unused and was still stored with all the other Guard equipment that had no real value now that there was no fuel or power.

Back here had been popular for couples trying to get a little privacy in the early days, he remembered as he past several ruined buildings and found himself standing at one of the swimming pools that had been used to store water for the Enclave since the crisis had started. After the Hurricane it was full again, he imagined all five of the pools along this section were full.

The Barricade here ran along Caraval Ct road which curved south then straight west along lighthouse Ln. before leaving the road and cutting straight across through the golf course to the water. Encompassing several buildings many multi story, back then it had been crowded, people even sleeping in hallways, storage buildings anywhere the guard could put them. It had been bearable when the evacuations had been going on, but that had only lasted a week, maybe less.

Once that had stopped, the people who had homes on the island had for the most part returned to them believe that the island was safe, but the Tourists had no place to go and had stayed here, along with some of the home and boat owners who had not believed that the island was safe.

The guard had been good while they had been in charge, he thought a he walked along the wall, they had kept the sick together and under guard, when some one died the brain was instantly destroyed by knife or bullet, usually knife and the body had been taken out and destroyed. The burn piles could still be seen under the weeds and wild flowers outside the Gate.

He stopped seeing a fallen tree that some one had cut apart, good some one has been cleaning up back here, he thought as he made note in his notebook. Brush had been trimmed back from the barricade and piled up ready to be burned. Trash and debris had been gathered and placed in carts to be hauled off.

As he started to walk towards the next area, something caught his attention in one of the carts. He walked over and saw a small tin sticking out of the debris and trash. a Tin like the kind that Sardines came in. Only this one was still shiny, he pulled it out and an eyebrow rose as he saw a thin layer of liquid in the bottom of the tin. He held it up to his nose, sniffed, and could smell sardines.

He knew better than any one what foods they had in storage, and Sardines were not on the list at least not any longer. Curious he dug around in the cart and extracted two recently opened hot chocolate packages, another empty Sardine tin and an empty Caviar tin. None of it was foodstuffs the Enclave had stored and were rationing out.

He looked in another cart and found a bottle of wine with a little bit of wine in the bottom and it too was fresh, it couldn’t have been out here during the storm or it would have had water get into the bottle diluting the wine residue till it lost its distinctive smell and making the bottle look dirty. There were more tins and cans mixed in with the old stuff, most of it was too clean to have been out here long.

He looked around to see if any one had appeared then shoved the hot chocolate packages and one of the empty tins in his pockets. Nervous now, he started walking back towards the inhabited region of Harbor town. Who ever was dumping this, might be willing to kill to keep the secret of their food cache from getting out.

And you know who comes out this way quite often don’t you, Bob asked himself. Mathias and his group, they are the ones that volunteered to do the clean up in this area too and now you know why.

He finally passed between two buildings of condo and was back on the Main path around the Marina, in full sight of people. With all the fights and arguments that had gripped the Enclave since this morning, he wasn’t much safer but at least here, he was only likely to get beaten up. He doubted that Tolman or any one else close to Mathias would try to kill him here in plain sight.

Walters people might be supporting some of Mathias’s beliefs and Ideals but at least for now they were not willing to kill men and women they had been friends with and survived the dead with. Give it a few days and who knew what might happen, he told himself. Some of these folks have gotten to the point they are willing to kill unborn children and drive their parents out of the enclave so they can eat, Killing others cant be far off if they get desperate enough, or at least feel like things have gotten that desperate.

He spotted Chet Stoutmyer and waved him over, “mind walking with me” Bob asked, “I would feel a whole lot safer with you along.” It was sad to feel that way after so long of feeling like this was a good place, a good home but people were hungry and they were angry and that was not a good combination at any time.

1545 hrs, Harbor Town Enclave Security office.

It wasn’t the happiest meeting ever held in the room Morgan thought, glancing at Bob, then back at Erin who was laying out the story that Salinger had told her.

“What a load of horse shit” Glenn Timmons muttered as Erin finished with the story.

“Why, because you don’t want to believe it” Bob asked as he drummed his finger tips on the scarred table top.

“because its crap Bob, I dislike Tolman and Mathias as much as you do. But how could he have left so many times to meet with Salinger with out us knowing about it.” Glenn replied. “hell some one would have noticed Tolman was leaving the Enclave so often and reported it.”

“Salinger walked up to our gate, asked to talk and of all the people here in the Enclave who dislike Salinger it happened to be Tolman. And don’t give me that no one saw Tolman do it, he admitted it, and didn’t even try to hide when he left the roof he shot from. He slung his rifle over his shoulder and walked away smiling at people.”

“Oh I believe he shot Salinger but,” Greg said

“Salinger has no idea who shot him, so why would he use Tolmans name. In fact how did he know Tolman at all.” Bob said cutting Greg off.

“Hicks” Morgan said unhappily. He would rather just assume the worst about Tolman and Mathias but he had to try and look at all the angles. “Hicks used to be part of the Mathias group remember. He could have told Salinger about Tolman and every one else in that group.”

“Yes, Hicks, another connection to Mathias made,” Bob said caustically.

“I think he is telling the truth” Erin said, glancing at Lydia Stowe the only other woman in the room. Lydia nodded in agreement. “Salinger listed off every attack his people launched against us Greg, he didn’t try to lie about it or make excuses for them, he believed we had attacked them, stolen their food, were killing their messengers and sniping his people when we were bored, and because of that he felt justified. But he denies the sniping attacks on our people, denies the two raids that got inside the enclave and denies killing the four men I sent to try and set up peace talks. ”

“we only have his word that he had food stolen in the first place.” Gregg said stubbornly.

Bob instantly leaped in pointing out how thin Salinger was. Morgan added in his own thoughts and Greg continued to play devils advocate. At least Erin hoped he was playing. She remained silent listening to them debate and thinking about the points that they each made. Lydia was silent for the most part, she dislike Tolman and Mathias badly and had no problem believing them guilty

“You said they met at the old Marriott heritage club?” Morgan asked suddenly.

“Tolman and Salinger, yes” Erin replied.

“so he says” Gregg added refusing to consider any option that might make Salinger any less Satans red headed stepchild.

“That’s about a hundred yards from where Bob found that trash,” Morgan said. He rose and walked over to the desk he used and recovered the tins and the empty packages of hot chocolate mix and tossed them in front of Greg. “You can still see powder in those pouches, even still smells like chocolate mix. Go ahead take a sniff, and while your doing that Gregg ask yourself where it came from, because its not in our inventory, neither are the Sardines.”

“There were wine bottles in that trash too, the only wine I’ve seen in the last year was the case that Travis found and brought back and the bottles I found were not from that case.”Bob said. “and lets bring up the fact that there are three places people dump trash in the Enclave and none of them are close to where I found that pile of trash. so someone was dumping it there to hide it, because its out of the way and no one usually goes out there.”

“Except for Mathias’s crew” Lydia said, every one looked at her waiting. “the only buildings we use anymore are the ones right around the Marina itself. The southern zone is empty except for the building that Walter turned into a meeting hall for his followers.
The old golf course is the only place we used on that side.”

Erin rose and paced over to the map of the Enclave, Lydia was pointing out the obvious but most of them rarely thought about the south side except for Morgan who set the patrols and ran security. She traced the main walk way around the marina, the occupied area ran from the light house to the last occupied building following the curve of the walkway from the marina mouth to the eastern side of the Marina Basin.

Everything else from that point on was empty. The people who had once live there having died over the last six years. The only buildings on the south side with any kind of human presence were the five buildings on the south side of the marina opposite the Lighthouse and the mouth of the marina that still contained national guard equipment and gear that the enclave couldn’t use like generators that required fuel and were still guarded by Security. But that left something like ten buildings, back in the trees spread along lighthouse lane and separated from the old golf course by trees, in addition there were several other buildings along Caraval and Cutter streets that stood empty as well.

And that was where Bob had found the hidden trash, just across the barricade at the Heritage club was where Salinger claimed to have met not once or even twice but repeatedly with the man who had shot him. she thought touching each spot on the map, then at the block that represented Walters meeting place.

“haven’t there been rumors about Mathias and Tolman and some of the others exploring back there.” she asked.

“Yes” Morgan replied.

“That doesn’t mean they are behind some plot to ….” Greg said his voice trailing off. “to overthrow you” he ended lamely.

“I believe Salinger” Erin said turning to face the others. “is it possible that Tolman or any one could cross the barricade back there to meet with Salinger.” She knew the answer of course and the others should to if they stopped an thought about it, so she was going to make a point.

“all it would take is a ladder Erin” Morgan told her. “and making sure the right men are on patrol when you do it.” And they both knew that several of the men on the security teams followed Walters lead and even embraced some of Mathias’s less wild ideas.

“why?” Gregg asked curious. “I know it sounds like I want Mathias and Tolman to be innocent, and in a way I do because I don’t want to believe that they can be even bigger pieces of crap than I had thought.”

“why,” Erin repeated softly as she paced to the table and stopped with her arms crossed. “because Mathias has been working for a while to become a power here in the enclave, we all know he started the whole Abort the kids to feed ourselves solution, and the raid our neighbors to take what we need solution. I bet he even has jack boots and nazi arm bands stashed some where.

But the one thing that never made any sense to me, was what could he do to solve the food problem once he was in control. The farm was struggling, our stored supplies are almost gone, the fish are rotting faster than we could eat it.

Words that’s all he had to offer” She said with a cold smile. “That’s what I thought, but what if he has food, Saligners and the food stolen from our supplies during the two raids that managed to reach the storage site.

So ask yourself this Gregg, how did Salinger and his people know where we kept our food? Its not like its next to the fence and has a sign on it. yet they got inside with out being seen, crossed most of the enclave again with out being seen and had a lot of food removed before we even figured out they were here and in the end we never caught one of them.”

“Erin we lost five people in that raid” Gregg pointed out.

“three of them were pals with Mathias, and for all the gunfire that night. not one of the raiders was killed. ” Erin replied. “Think about that Gregg, Did Salingers people, while under fire pick up their dead and carry them off.”

Greg sat back in his chair, thinking over what she had said. “so your saying that we didn’t find their bodies because none of Salingers people were actually there.” Lydia said.

Erin nodded “oh I think we found three to five of the raiders bodies, we just didn’t know it at the time. I don’t think Mathias expected anyone to get killed either. But once it happened, the situation played even more into his hands.” Erin said. “the other thing that makes me believe Salinger is McCaffrey.”

“What does McCaffrey have to do with this?” Gregg asked.

“Salinger called him the Trader, and a merchant. How did he know that? We were the first people McCaffrey approached. And before you start in on your paranoia about McCaffrey again Greg, remember Hicks and some of Salingers other men tried to kill him.”

“They could have had a falling out” Greg said then lifted a hand. “All right I know that’s flimsy. But McCaffrey could have passed information along to Salinger and then wanted something in payment that Salinger wasn’t willing to give him.”

“Do you sit in front of a Mirror and practice being paranoid and obstinate” Bob asked.

“Greg enough, I’ve reached a decision on this. I appreciate your caution and refusal to just leap in and believe. But we, I am running out of time if I hope to have any chance of keeping Mathias from taking over. If you think he might do a good job in leading the Enclave then tell me now, and I will happily step aside, which would really piss him off.” Erin said.

“No, Erin, he would be a disaster and if he has done even half of what Salinger claims, Mathias is responsible for all of the deaths from starvation and malnutrition since the raid and would probably end up killing more once he was in charge.” Greg said shaking his head sharply. “the problem is we cant prove it Erin, it doesn’t matter what we believe. If we cant prove it, It will only look like we are slinging crap hoping something sticks.”

“I know Gregg, that’s why we are not going to breath a word of this to any one. Not yet, and if we cant prove it before the meeting or find a way out of the food problem then its over.” Erin said grimly.

1700 hrs. Former Condo, Harbor town Enclave south.

The room was packed, Mathias noted with satisfaction as he walked to the lectern on the make shift platform. There wasn’t much to see, the carpet had been pulled up years back, leaving only a scuffed gray concrete floor. mismatched chairs had been hauled in from every empty condo and building to provide seats for every one. The only things you could call decoration was a US flag, and a bible on prominent display.

This had been Walters meeting place for his Political party. Mathias found it odd that no one had really thought of it that way before now. However, it was a political party and Mathias knew how to manipulate Political parties. People were really sheep when it was all said and done, oh yes many considered themselves stubborn, independent, and not easily convinced and above all they always believed they could sense the truth. In reality they were some of the easiest led people in the world.

Well Sheep had their places and getting him into power was one of those things they were supposed to do. Walters untimely demise, combined with Mathias’s public friendship with the man had catapulted him into the leadership role, not because any one of the people in this room liked him on a personal level but because he said what they wanted to hear, he reinforced their paranoia and ideology. Politics and Propaganda have been bedfellows since the dawn of time and Mathias was a past master of the art.

He smiled to himself, it had taken some time to create the beginnings of the Chaos that was now blooming, and now he had to organize the chaos, simply guiding and molding the habits and opinions of these people which is easy enough. They are hungry, scared of what the future will bring, if there will be any future for them at all.

Now all he had to do was to guide them into taking the actions he needed, by making them decide it was their idea, and what they wanted. All of which was easy enough.

Once they were ready he wouldn’t have to do a thing other than to be the voice of reason and of course be shocked and stunned at the violence that would wrack the Enclave. He wouldn’t be marred by the violence the group would set off, no every one would remember he had urged restraint, and there at the end when they wanted to string Erin Brinn up, he would stand between her and the mob and urge them to exile her.

Then he would be swept into power, and like very other mob that overthrew governments in the past, the majority of them will refuse to ever look to closely at what they did while in the grip of political passion. They will try to find every way they can to justify their actions and wasn’t the leader they had chosen by election free of the taint of blood.

The room fell silent as he stood behind the Lectern. “I think we should take a moment to honor Walter who died last night” he said. “a moment of silence if you don’t mind.” there were mutters of approval from the gathering, then silence fell, heads were bowed.

Mathias his head bowed like the others, hid a smile, sentimental fools is what they are, but a public prayer or moment of silence never fails to get them at time like this and it didn’t matter what political party they had once believe in. They fall all over themselves to make a show out of respecting the deceased.

After a minute, he lifted his head and cleared his throat. “I feel that things here in the Enclave have become critical and that if we are to survive intact we must act in our own best interest by that I mean formulating a plan to deal with the food situation and our medical needs. Far to many of us have died with out proper medical care, and that is not Sandy’s fault.” Of course it was Sandy’s fault, the man knew next to nothing about treating people but I cant very well say that, at least not at the moment.

“Well if Erin wasn’t hording medicine and food, things would be different” Greg Peers called out from the back of the room. Right on cue, Mathias thought and I didn’t even have to bribe him to help.

There were mutters from many of the others, some against the idea others who believed it. “I have seen no proof that there is hording going on,” Mathias replied. “we can only act on the things we know to be fact Greg, even if were likely that Erin was hording food and supplies for her supporters, we would have to be able to prove it to get the rest of the Enclave to support us in voting her out.”

“If we could prove it, we wont need a damn vote.” some one else said.

“We wouldn’t even be in this mess if we didn’t have so many pregnant women” Stewart Lidrow said from the fourth aisle. “When those babies are born, some of us will starve because of them.” Mathias nodded grimly in agreement, wondering if any of them saw the hypocrisy in the fact that many of the men so angered by the pregnant women, had fathered one or more children themselves over the last five years.

It rather amused Mathias when he listened to men like Greg and Stewart blither on about the destruction of the society they had built by unrestrained breeding, especially when Stewarts boy was only a year old and would soon be eating more and more food.

“Calmly now Stewart, its not the fault of the unborn that their parents were irresponsible” Mathias said calmly not a single trace of his thoughts on his face.

Many of the women sitting out there were not fans of the abortion idea nor were all the man. He could not be seen even tacitly supporting the idea if he wished to gain the support of the majority. Extremism was the road to failure.

“That is the very reason We have to come up with a plan now, that will provide us with enough food not just over the short term but through the winter as well.” Mathias said. “And I still believe that we can send men out to seize Salingers supplies most of which was stolen from our very on stocks.”

“Thank God Tolman shot the bastard, Erin would have served him dinner and probably gave him a teen aged girl to screw.” Greg called out, if he noticed the angry looks some of the women gave him he didn’t show it.

There were hoots and cheers for Tolman for several minutes before Mathias motioned for silence. This was going better than he had anticipated, he decided as more comments about Erin’s group hording food, and failure to deal with the Salinger threat, as well some pointed remarks about how the Enclave should do something about people breeding and putting the rest in danger.

Oh let that simmer for a while, it can only give me more power once I am installed as leader of the Enclave, Mathias thought.

“My friends, please let me get done with business then I will yield the floor so that you may express your views and we can vote on the course of action that makes the most sense.” Mathias said. The people quickly fell silent waiting. “First let me read off the official current inventory of supplies.” He said holding up ten hand written pages. The phrase he had used seemed innocuous, but in truth using the word official, suggested that there might be another list, one that wasn’t handed out. It was a simple trick that committed him to nothing and yet subtly hinted at conspiracy.

He read the list to them and the new ration orders that were to be implemented in another week, and then the damages to the food supplies caused by the storm and its impact on their food situation. He kept his voice level, and placing careful emphasis only where it was supposed to be, years of marketing and negotiating had gone into crafting his performance tonight.

When he finished, he could see the tension on the faces of those gathered here tonight. They had taken the route he had wanted; they were worried that things were far worse than the reports had said. The pump was primed now to let it flow, he thought. “I would like to open the floor so that you can share your ideas with the rest of us and together we can work towards a solution.” He said as he decided to recognize Daniel, whose girlfriend had died six months ago from complications arising from malnutrition. “Daniel would you like to speak first”

He walked to his chair and sat, and as he had expected Daniel was anything but tame in his assessment of Erin and the food situation. Oh People were so predictable he thought once more.

He sat and listened to speaker after speaker, occasionally rising and acting as the voice of moderation, each response carefully crafted to get the reaction he desired while sounding like a reasonable man who desired nothing more than to keep wild speculation at bay giving Erin the benefit of the doubt.

Greg had just taken the stand when Tolman appeared at beside Mathias’s chair, “we have a problem” Tolman said quietly into Mathias ear. “Bob was poking around the Jameson building.”

Mathias rose, and apologized to the room. “Pardon me for a moment.” he said then gestured for Tolman to follow him outside.

It was a cool evening, where stars glimmered in a clear sky overhead. “tell me” He demanded.

“Like I said Bob was poking around where he shouldn’t be.” Tolman said calmly.

“did he see anything?” Mathias asked.

“not that I know of, but he was near where we dump the trash.” Tolman said.

Mathias frowned, then rubbed his narrow jaw with a thumb. “he was supposed to be checking areas to make sure that clean up crews had reached each area. As you know we we were supposed to be doing the majority of the clean up on the south side, with the exception of the farm.”

“We can’t risk him poking around Mathias. When he left I had Rogers and Connelly tail him, he headed straight for Morgans office, stopping only long enough to get that idiot Chet to escort him. that makes me very suspicious.”

“Did he enter the building” Mathias asked he didn’t have to say which building there was only one that he was worried about and Tolman knew it.

“No, or this wouldn’t be an issue”Tolman said.

“the only thing we can do is keep a better watch and if he comes back and pokes his nose into the building then you deal with it.” Mathias said. His entire plan hinged on what was stored there.

“and if he comes back with a security team?” Tolman asked.

“Deal with them as well, we can all ways claim that we found out that Erin was hiding something there and we went to find out what it was and were attacked when we insisted on seeing what was inside. We only have a little more than a day to keep the secret anyway and with whats getting ready to happen around here, Security will be a little busy trying to keep the peace with little time to search the southern zone.” Mathias said.

From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey

Its started, the lead up to the coup. Since eight or so last night, there have been fights, protests and even a few shots traded. Erin was called away around midnight, that is one brave woman, she went to face down a crowd demanding access to the food stores.

Three men came calling around one, or 0100 hrs as Eric and the military types call it. they beat on the door and threatened Noel. I was all ready to go out and deal with them only to find her sitting in the living room with a SPAs 11, a combat 12ga shotgun. Ready to, in her words, cut the first man through the door in half.

They left after a few minute, which tells me they were not serious and that the majority of the Enclave is not behind them otherwise they would have hung around all night beating on the door and yelling threats.

Erin got back right around Dawn, looked like she had been in a fight. From what she said it wasn’t actually as bad as it sounded. She seems to think that the opposition is just being a pain in the ass but will not try a coup but stick with voting her out of power. She knows these people I don’t, So I guess I will have to wait and see.

0830 hrs, Harbor town.

Chris stepped outside, seemingly oblivious to the looks a group of men loading debris into a cart sent his way. he took a deep breath of the crisp clean air, then walked to the curving path that would take him to the building that housed the security center just behind the light house.

In better times this would have been an idyllic walk, what with the shade trees and planters on one side and the glittering water of the marina basin on the other. Clean up crews were out today cleaning up the last of the debris, some were cutting up the last of the fallen trees with axes. The wood would be stacked for storage, to be used to help heat the occupied buildings during the winter.

To him winters here on the coast were mild, incredibly mild actually at least compared to what he was used to. He ignored the few comments sent his way by workers, who seemed to think he was eating their food. the flip side of that was just as bad, he knew that there had to be some of them that knew he had his own supplies and dreamed of taking his food for themselves.

It was only the weapons he wore openly, that kept the unarmed civilians from jumping him. they had heard the stories of his taking out five of Salinger’s men and he knew that played a part in holding them back. It wouldn’t last, the more desperate things felt to them the more risks they would be willing to take.

Chris wasn’t a fool either, they might be showing at least some restraint towards the men and women they had shared the enclave with, but he was a stranger whom they had no emotional ties to and when push came to shove one or more men might take the plunge to take what he had.

“McCaffrey” A familiar voice called out, Chris stopped and turned his head, hand falling to rest on the butt of the pistol he wore. Yance Tiembo waved as he approached from a side path that wound through the tree covered northern grounds.

“thought you might want to know that Travis is doing okay, still unconscious but doing better.”

“Thanks” Chris replied, he had grown to like Travis and wished he could have Travis loaded up and taken to Sullivan to be treated . “Glad to hear it”

“mind if I walk with you” Tiembo asked, cutting his eyes towards a group of men loitering near a door into one of the old shops, they held shovels and other tools but didn’t seem to be interested in doing any work just watching him.

“not at all” Chris replied, no more eager to get in a fight than the next man. Or at least the next sane and well fed man.

“Great, Steve wants to talk with you about something, then Morgan needs a word with you.” Tiembo said as they started walking.

The smokers had been set up just above the dock that the fishing boat offloaded on, and as they approached chris could see smoke rising from the small flues that had been set in the tops of the fridges. Men, mostly security stood around the smokers acting casual but from the set of their shoulders and the way their eyes swept the area they were ready for action.

Men were already offloading the early morning catch, weighing fish then tossing them in waiting boxes that would be carried up to the stands and handed out to the line of people already forming.

Steve was feeding some logs into the fire box of a smoker when Chris saw him. Steve closed and latched the metal door and straightened up, smiling as he saw Chris. “we are breaking the news today” steve said he came up and shook Chris’s hand. “Erin thought a bit of good news might keep the powder keg from exploding.” He said his voice lower so it wouldn’t carry.

“the haul today isn’t as a large one but its enough, 3/4s of the catch will be handed out, the rest is going into the smokers and as soon as she is off loaded she is going back out, we didn’t do that before, unless the catch was really small, because anything we caught after the first trip would just rot.” He said then clapped Chris on the back. “you did this, thank you”

“No, you did this, I just traded the knowledge to you and you need to claim the credit for this” Chris replied, this was what made him feel good, not the praise, though he wouldn’t deny he enjoyed it. But to him this was the reason he had said yes when Eric and Ori had approached him about becoming a pathfinder.

That was the problem in the old world, men tossed out lines about serving other, or serving their nation and communities, especially law enforcement with the protect and serve slogans. Yes most of them meant it and believed it, not all no, but most. But what they did, day in and day out was a job. It wasn’t till they saved a life, or a disaster struck and they were in thick of it, risking life and limb to rescue people then helping those same people survive that it really meant something, that they knew what they were doing was worthwhile.

Seeing the joy, in Steves eyes and knowing that these people had a chance now was all that mattered, Naïve maybe, but when he died he wanted to know he had made a real difference, even if no one else ever recognized it.

“Look at them,” Steve said gesturing to the growing line. “they are curious about what we are doing. I guess that’s my cue to get this show on the road.” Chris, turned to Tiembo who grinned at him.

“Steve wanted you here when he made the announcement,” Tiembo said with a shrug, but he was still smiling.

I wished it could have waited till tomorrow, hitting the opposition with this, what Norman is going to be bringing back from the wreck would have been a hammer blow to their plans. But no plan ever survives, he thought as he watched Steve climb up onto the ply wood top of the large fish stand they had erected and began to talk to the crowd.

0900 hrs Harbor town, South zone.

“I shouldn’t be here” Bob thought, as he walked through zone, occasionally checking the clipboard he held that he hoped would convince people he was just checking to make sure no area was missed during the clean up. it was quiet back here, and the looming empty condos made him feel isolated and alone, which he was. I should have brought a security team, I should have done what Morgan asked me to do keep my butt out of here. But we have to know the truth, if Salinger is telling the truth and Mathias is hording food, we have to know for a fact and recover this food.

He reached Light house lane which ran north till it joined the walk way that encircled the Marina. Then on the north side by the light house Lighthouse lane continued on curving around till it passed through the gates and crossed Deer Island road as it headed east.

But here, the road was empty of people and still covered in limbs and leaves that had been torn free during the storm. Clean up teams should have already been working here, he thought as he made a note on his clipboard and started walking down the street, skirting the larger limbs that littered the slowly crumbling street.

He could still remember when the southern zone had been full of people, someone dying and becoming one of the undead had been a real threat but a controllable one and it had happened occasionally. And people had died each time, not many, not enough to put a dent in the several thousand people who had been housed here. There had been plenty of food then too, but the winters had brought sickness, and people had died. People had walked into the water past the golf course and drowned themselves unable to take their life in the new world of the dead.

And when the dead had finally fallen over, there had been a massive celebration, people had walked out of the gates just because they could and they had met other survivors but a week went by, then another and still no government relief, no ships or planes arrived.
The joy of being free of the dead had faded as it became apparent that the fuel, almost gone, wasn’t going to be replaced, that the power wasn’t going to come back on, and cell phones were not going to start ringing again. this was their new life and none of them here in the enclave had any real clue how to do anything to survive and many had not wanted to.

The suicides had started again and that had been bad, but at least the bodies didn’t get back and kill. But then as if there wasn’t enough tragedy in their lives, disease had swept across the island, not once but several times, to many people with no sanitation and very little medication, it hadn’t been pretty.

Across the island plumes of smoke had risen into the sky as every group of survivors, had begun to add their own dead to the burn piles along with the slow rotting corpses of the undead.

There had been time bob had thought the fires would ever stop, that the long parade of corpses being carried on men’s backs, carts and wheelbarrows wouldn’t end. It had ended and every one left was haunted by it. All the prayers for the dead to end had been answered and it had been worse in so many ways than when the dead had walked.

He was just starting past the building that Every one called the Jameson building, it had once housed an entire family who had been on Hilton head for a family reunion, four generations, six hundred people trapped here. They had thought they were lucky and in a way they had been, but they had been cursed too, they had gotten to watch their entire family die from one cause after another till only three were left. They now lived up by the lighthouse and refused to go anywhere near the Jameson building and the graves of their entire family.

He could see the old real estate office up ahead, and the turn to the left that would take him to the farm when he noticed something near the front door of the five story Jameson building. Bob looked around nervously, and then seeing no one he hurried over up the old walkway noting boot prints in the dried mud through one old flower bed. but it had been the clean, recently dropped MRE package that had caught his eye.

He gazed up the side of the building, then back down at the MRE package. He hadn’t seen an MRE since the last raid that had hit the Storage building two years ago. and even if there MRE’s left, this area hadn’t been touched by a clean up crew and no one was going to just decide to eat lunch in the Jameson building. This might be where Mathias had the food hidden, it was large, people avoided it because of its reputation, most would deny believing in ghosts, but whether they admitted it or not, most believed there was something wrong with the building and avoided it.

Perfect place to hide the food too, he thought, no one comes down here, its separated from the Farm by a band of trees and brush, and you can watch the area for a good ways from the top floor and roof. He thought as tension suddenly gripped him tightly. He pushed the MRE package out of sight with a foot then lifted his clip board and made a note about needing a crew to clean the area, just in case some one watching him decided to stop him, that little note might save his life if they thought he hadn’t seen a anything.

He started back down the street, wishing again that he had brought someone with him and trying not to start running to escape the area. Acting casual like he had seen nothing, he kept walking.

“Well Bob” Tolman’s voice made Bobs blood run cold. “Poking around where you don’t belong again”

Bob stopped then turned a little to fast he thought, Tolman and three other men stood in front a smaller building that they must have been inside of watching the street and came out after Bob had passed.

“I’m checking to make sure the clean up teams have hit each area, aren’t you supposed to be cleaning this area” Bob asked as casually as he could.

“That would be what we are doing here Bob, cleaning up the trash.” Tolman said a smile spreading across his face. “But before we take the trash out, I think you and I need to have a little talk Bob. Donny, Mac why don’t you show Bob where we are taking the trash too,”

Bob grew pale, Tolman knew, somehow he knew that Bob had found the trash yesterday. he turned to run knowing it was futile but he had to try. The two men were on him before he could run more than a couple of steps. One man punched him in the solar plexus and as he sagged the breath knocked out of they grasped him by the arms and carried him back towards the barrier, back to where he had found the trash yesterday.

.

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