Chapter Four—Can I trust you?

James took the pot of water off the hot plate just as it began to boil. He had already laid out the dish towels he and Kyle would use to wash up with as well as their fresh set of clothes. He laid the cut out on the counter top and began to strip out of the blood and dirt covered clothes he was wearing. He threw every stitch he had been wearing into a corner to deal with them later. Kyle looked at him apprehensively, and made no move to follow his lead, a slight look of fear on his face. It took James a moment to comprehend why, and when he did, he cursed himself for his stupidity. After what had happened nearly twenty minutes ago, of course the kid was going to get afraid when he saw another guy strip naked, particularly a guy he hardly knew. James wracked his brains, trying to find something to say to comfort Kyle, when the younger boy pointed at him.

"Where did you get that scar on your stomach?" he asked. James glanced down for a second before he realized what scar Kyle meant.

"Oh, that. I had my appendix out last year," James said.

"And the one on your shoulder?" Kyle asked, taking a step closer.

"I had to have surgery on my collar bone after an accident playing rugby," James answered softly.

Kyle started to softly slide another foot forward, but stopped.

"Is that what made you so strong?"

"Strong?" James asked.

"Your muscles," Kyle said. James smiled.

"Yeah Kyle, playing sports made me strong," he answered.

"So, you could pin me down if you wanted?" Kyle asked in a scared voice.

"Pin you down? Why would I want to pin you down?" James asked, confused. Kyle seemed to realize something.

"You're not… Not…." Kyle began.

He faltered. He scrunched up his face, searching for words.

"Not like them?" he asked finally, pointing at the clothing shop, his face pained. In that moment, James wanted nothing more than to hug him and comfort him, but in his current state of undress, he didn't think it would help Kyle.

"No Kyle. I'm not like those sick animals. I did what I did to them because I find it disgusting. I didn't want them to hurt you," James said.

"But, you didn't know me," Kyle whispered.

"It doesn't matter Kyle. I wanted to help you," James answered in a soft voice.

Nothing more was said as Kyle slowly got undressed. James took it as a good sign that Kyle was comfortable enough in his company to do such a thing and he hoped Kyle was beginning to trust him. But he figured that what had happened in the shop would stay with Kyle for a very long time, and that he would have to watch his movement around Kyle as to not frighten him.

By the time they began to wash, the water had cooled somewhat, and James gratefully washed the blood off his forearms and where it had soaked through his t-shirt. It was beginning to feel sticky and weird. He glanced at Kyle, who was keeping his distance. Some of the arterial spray from Fatso had hit him and soaked through the back of his t-shirt and had dried on his back. With Kyle's permission, he gently sponged it off. Kyle was jumpy until he realized James wasn't going to hurt him. If anything, he seemed to be warming to James. He didn't put any distance between them after James had finished washing the blood away, but stuck close. When they had dried off and were getting dressed, Kyle actually smiled and sniggered.

"What's so funny?" James asked.

"That sweatshirt," Kyle laughed.

"What's wrong with it?" James demanded.

"It's green," Kyle giggled. "Someone from Ireland wearing green in America?"

James rolled his eyes and threw a dish towel at Kyle.

"Get dressed," James grinned. He was going to add more, but was interrupted by the revving of engines.

Four motorcycles rolled into the parking lot and parked in a loose semi-circle behind James' motorcycle. They sat there for a moment, staring in at James and Kyle before removing their helmets, and then got of their bikes.

A tall, African-American man took the lead. He seemed to be in charge, and he was the biggest man James had ever seen. The sleeves of the olive green t-shirt he wore under his cut seemed to be at breaking point with the size of his massive biceps and the fabric was drawn taunt over his chest. He seemed to be walking softly, but the footfalls of his massive boot clad feet were easily heard inside. A pair of sunglasses perched on top of his bald head. The man who came after him was white, and he would have been considered big in anyone else's company, but he was dwarfed by the tall man. His greying hair was kept in a sharp, military buzz cut. The third man was the smallest of the four, with a thin rat face and lanky brown hair and a slight build and his eyes flitted nervously from side to side. The fourth was young, with dirty blond hair pulled into a ponytail. His walk came off as more cocky than confident.

The tall man pushed open the door of the diner with such force that it bounced of the wall and shattered the glass. The man looked mildly surprised.

"I didn't mean to do that," he said in a surprisingly gently voice. The guy with the ponytail laughed, but shut up rather quickly when the leader gave him a sharp look.

"Sorry boss," he muttered.

The men fanned out, blocking off any escape James and Kyle had. James pushed Kyle behind him and reached for the Colt at his side. He held it loosely, its barrel pointed at the floor.

"Well, what do we have here?" the big man asked.

"Just some tourists on a road trip," James said.

"Mm-hmm. You know, your safety is off Mr. Tourist," the big guy said.

"And you are blocking the exit," James shot back.

Behind him, James felt Kyle tense and grab a fistful of his sweatshirt. The big man looked behind him at the exit.

"It appears that you are right. Where are my manners?" he asked, and cleared a path to the door, sliding into a booth with some effort. His companions joined him- spreading out between two booths. James got a good look at the back of their cuts. The youngest looked a little disgruntled. He didn't seem to like the look of distrust James was throwing in their direction, and he said so.

"Hey, kid, we are here to help you. You wanna tone down the hostility?" he said, sounding peeved.

James tightened his grip on the colt, feeling peeved himself.

"In the last forty eight hours, I lost my family via military evacuation, saw sick people eating other people, being helped by a soldier that I later had to shoot because he became sick and attacked me. Then I joined a group I thought would help me because I helped them, only to have them try to either kill me or seriously injure me via high speed reversal of a pickup. The next time I spoke to some people, they tried to rob me, only to get attacked by a sick person and be mauled to death by the infected, and the last two guys I meet were trying to do sick things to a kid and promised to make my butt look like the flag of Japan. So excuse me if I am a little wary of people right now," James growled.

The young man looked a little surprised by James' speech, and he sat down. James looked at them all closely, trying to read their expressions. He had to admit, they had great poker faces, but he caught a glimmer of something on their faces, though he couldn't tell what. He studied the leader. He had several patches on his cut. One read President, the one on the back of the cut, his club colors, showed a skeletal cop giving the finger and the words 'The Dammed MC.' The young guys club colors were the same. The other two had different colors. One had a Sergeant-at-Arms patch and 'Road Hogs MC' on the back, with a massive hog with white tusks. The other guy had a patch that read 'Secretary' and was also a member of the Road Hogs MC.

"I'm James, this is Kyle," James said eventually.

"Nice to meet you James and Kyle. My name is Terry Burke," said the big man, smiling.

000

Derek West flicked through the television channels. Almost all of them played the same thing—the emergency broadcast message. It advised people to stock up on canned goods and water and to stay in their homes. Those news channels that were still operating didn't have good news. It seemed as if every major city on the east coast was now either under military quarantine or had been abandoned. There had been no news from New York since early yesterday evening, and now the news reporters in Boston were no longer contacting their studios. Reports from Dallas showed lines of National Guardsmen prowling the streets. One journalist reported that when he tried to reach family members in a high school gym turned Red Cross Station, he was turned away. Ten minutes later, he said, he saw the whole complex been bombed.

And it wasn't just National Guard being deployed. Reports stated that elements of the regular army were patrolling the streets of Richmond, while members of the Marine Corp were seen on the streets of New Orleans. Rail lines were full of military trains transporting troops. The President could not be reached for comment, but Air Force One had been recorded taking off, while the Vice-President had been mobbed by reporters in Charleston on his way to Air Force Two. He had "No comment" on all questions. Washington D.C. was a ghost town, the videos from it showing abandoned ambulances and cars, with maybe a single person in the distance walking drunkenly up the middle of the road. One news reporter said that the phones in the White House Press Office were ringing out as if there were no one there to answer them, while his colleague said the same thing happened when she tried to contact several congressmen and senators. There were experts on warning that with the rapid spread of the virus, people should expect essential services such as electricity would be shutting down within the next two days.

The scariest video Derek had seen though had come from a small town Rhode Island. It showed a little girl in pink pajamas waling up the road. She looked sick. Her face was grey, her eyes milky. A soldier had entered the frame, and went to help her. She had lunged forward and taken a chunk out of the soldier's throat. About twenty minutes later, the news channel that had played the video had reported 'technical difficulties' and had gone of the air.

About the time the second of the remaining news channels had gone down for the same reason, Derek' grandfather had come in.

"I just got back from the Allen's farm. They have secured themselves in the bunker alright," he said, taking off his shoes. "It looks like we will have to look after their cattle as well as our own."

"Anything on the radio?" Derek asked.

"Nah. Most of the local radio stations have gone down. One guy was still on the air, but he was frantic. Said most of the people in the building were sick. What was weird was he said most of them had died. One guy from a heart attack and several from being shot when a janitor went postal on everyone, but that twenty minute later, they were up and about and attacking everyone. If that wasn't bad enough, the guy said the paramedics never showed up, even though they had placed a call to 911," Henry said scratching his stubble.

"You hear anything from your friend?" Henry asked.

"Allan (1)? Not since I dropped him at his house, why?"

"Oh, nothing. I could be wrong, but I skirted around the edge of town on my way back and I could have sworn I saw his mother stumbling around like she was back on the drink," Henry said.

Derek frowned.

"Well, Allan did say she was sick. You think she has what everyone else has?"

"It's possible. I'm going out to check on the cattle," Henry said, meaning he wanted to be alone to think.

When he went out, Derek took out his phone and tried Allan's number. It went through to voicemail the first two times, but the third time, it made two quick rings before it disconnects- as if someone had rejected the call.

000

Night had fallen and almost everyone in diner was asleep. There was a pull out bed in the storage room, and James was curled up on it beside Kyle, who was snoring gently. James lay awake, thinking. The whole day had been spent talking with Terry and his crew. As James had suspected, they were part of two different motorcycle clubs, but they did have something important in common. They were what Terry called 'Guardian Angels.' Meaning, they went to court to support children who were testifying against the people who had raped them so that the child wouldn't get scared. After the outbreak, when the police had been run thin trying to contain the infected people, Terry had gotten a call from a cop he knew well saying that two "sickos" had made an escape and could Terry and his guys track them down?

They had called in another motorcycle club for help and tracked them to a liquor store in a shopping mall. The only problem- the liquor store was on the first floor, while the stores on the ground floor had infected inside. By the time they learned that only headshots worked, the two 'pervs' had fled out an upstairs fire escape and most of the guys who had come to get them had been killed. They had regrouped and fled to the clubhouse, tried to contact other club members and got no result. They had come to the conclusion that the infected were dead, based on the fact that no living person could take so many bullets to the chest and still be alive. After that, they called the infected 'zombies.' They spent the next few days hunkered down before joining in the Run from New York where they had picked up the trail of the perverts—and followed them to the clothing store and had seen what James had done.

After they were done, Kyle had piped up with his story. His mom had died when he was younger. He had two older brothers—one in the Marine Corps, station in Louisiana. His other brother was back on the reservation in Oklahoma. His dad was a lawyer who had gotten a job with a big firm in New York last year. They were fleeing the infection in their silver BMW when they had pulled over to help a blond lady on the side of the road. Kyle told them "she did this funny thing with her chest- she kept pushing it out." It turned out that she had a boyfriend, and he snuck up and had killed Kyle's father. The description of the man and woman sounded familiar to James. Kyle had spent the rest of the day and most of that night wandering around before he fell asleep in a car. The following morning he had woken up to find an infected trying to bash through the window. He had ran, and come across the two sickos. He trailed of at this point.

James turned onto his side and looked at the younger boy. He didn't know what to do now. Could he trust Terry and his friends? James felt as if his head was packed. He sighed. What would he do?

While James was pondering this, an infected person staggered into the parking lot. He was followed by another, then three, then five. Some of the column of infected that had followed the living out of New York City had found its way to the diner.

Authors Note: (1) I just realized I had a family named Allen and a person whose first name is Allan. Hope that's not confusing- but it probably is. Sorry.