Haven Page 37


We went inside, and I took Peter up on an offer to give me a tour of Haven. He wanted to show me everything they’d done to organize it, and I wanted to get away from all the people who were expecting me to make their lives good again.


***


Two weeks went by with a flurry of activity. Jenny proved herself worthy of the title Code-Reader and she had two new birds in her flock of messengers, given by a happy compatriot over at the Amazon contact point. They were very happy with her progress as were we.


Several more Miccosukee and Creek kids had joined us at Haven, bringing more animals and supplies. We added lots of stragglers too, who’d made their way down I-95, sent to us by the Cracker Barrel contact point and the Amazons.


Everyone who came was offered a cell to make into an apartment. None of them had windows, but they were worlds better than where most of them had been sleeping, and you couldn’t beat the security system. A pack of dogs, four watchtowers with armed guards, and several explosive-rigged traps ringed our little town. Many signs warned people approaching to follow a very specific protocol before coming to the gate or risk being blown to bits. It was harsh, but effective. We’d had zero accidents and all good additions to our community so far.


But while several things were going well for us, there were still some problems we had to deal with on a regular basis, and two of them haunted me night and day: Bodo and the girl I liked to call the Bad Penny. No matter what I said or did to smooth things over with her, she just kept turning up under my nose making me nuts.


“Gail, I’ve already said this to you like fifty times.” She was standing in front of me and Peter in Peter’s workspace. We were sitting in two of the swivel chairs that ringed a large laminate, oval-shaped table.


Peter had claimed an old conference room as his City Manager headquarters, and it was stocked with all the writing materials we could find and a huge cork board and magnetic board. All of his plans were hanging up around the room, and over fifty checklists were in the process of being completed and refined at all times.


“I don’t have to listen to that crap from you,” she responded, arms folded across her chest.


“Uh, yes you do,” said Peter, as frustrated with her as I was. “Bryn makes the rules here, and you follow them. Just like everyone else does. You’re not special. You’re not the exception. No one is.”


“Could-a fooled me,” she said in a mocking tone. “I don’t see you coming down on Fohi for getting involved in the weaving.”


“That’s different.”


“How so? You said his job was setting traps. But eeevery day I see him in the weaving room, messing around with the looms. That means you do let people do other jobs. I guess that rule only applies to certain friends, though.”


“You’re comparing apples and oranges again,” said Peter, getting ready to launch into his politically correct explanation about how we have to spread out our resources and put the most qualified person in the most appropriate position. Fohi was just there flirting with Winky, but that had nothing to do with this at all. Gail knew this. She was just trying once again to get under our skin.


I held my hand up to silence Peter. I was staring at Gail the whole time. “Okay, Gail, here’s the deal. We’ve been understanding of your issues, nice to you …”


“Issues?”


“Yes. Issues. We’ve been nice to you, given you food, clothing, shelter, everything you need to survive and thrive here … and all you’ve done is cause trouble.”


“That’s bullshit.”


“No, it’s not. You harass Jenny non-stop about the birds, you mock Fohi until he punches walls, you say negative remarks about the food to anyone who will listen … and frankly, none of us is interested in your shit anymore. It needs to stop, and it needs to stop today.”


“I’m just interested in learning the code stuff too. What if Jenny gets sick? What if something happens to her? You need a second person trained.”


“That second person will never be you, you can count on that,” said Peter.


“Listen, gay boy, I don’t need you …”


I stood up all of a sudden, the chair flying out behind me. “Stop right there!” I came from around the table to stand just a couple feet from her.


She backed up as far as she could go, until she ran into a shelving unit with files on it. “Stay back. I have a knife!”


“You’d better not have a knife. You know this is a weapon-free zone.”


She fumbled in her pocket and pulled it out, holding it up in front of her and pointed at my face. “Stay back, I’m not kidding. I don’t have to stand here and be bullied by you. I have the right to defend myself.”


The weapon looked like something she’d made out of a piece of metal she’d found and sharpened.


“What is that?” laughed Peter. “A prison shank?”


She held it up threateningly at him. “It’s a knife, and it’s sharp, so shut up.”


I whipped the side of my hand over and made contact with her wrist, sending the metal flying across the table and crashing into the wall. It fell to the floor with a loud clank.


“Ow!” she shrieked. “What’d you do that for!”


I sighed. “Gail, I’m putting you under arrest.”


Her mouth dropped open. Then she frowned. “Under what authority?” she scoffed.


“Under my authority,” I said, grabbing her upper arm and dragging her from the room.


She tried to dig her heels in and stop me from bringing her down the hall, but it wasn’t even slowing me down. I was determined to end the nonsense; the insult thrown at Peter was the final straw for me. I needed to take care of her once and for all. This girl was a pure poison and something had to be done with her. We’d put it off for long enough. At this point it really felt like she was putting the people of Haven in danger.


She kicked me hard in the back of the thigh, slowing us down and giving me a hell of a bruise.


I turned around and smashed her in the collar bone, dropping her to her knees.


“Get me a pair of handcuffs,” I said to Peter, holding her down on the floor by her hair.


She was screaming like a woman possessed and swinging her arms around awkwardly, trying to grab a hold of me.


“B-R-B!” yelled Peter, running down the hallway in the opposite direction.


“I’m going to fucking kill you, you bitch! You’d better run far away because I’m not going to stop until you’re dead!”


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I put my knee in her back while I waited for the restraints to arrive. “Why all the hate, Gail? Why against me? What’d I ever do to you?”


“Shut up.” Her voice was muffled, buried in her upside down shirt somewhere. “You know exactly why. You’re always walking around here like you’re the best thing since television, letting your friends do whatever they want and keeping everyone else penned in like animals. All you are is a slave driver. A zoo keeper. You’re nothing. All it takes is a single bullet to end your bullshit.”


Her words hurt my feelings, and her threat chilled my blood. She wasn’t like Coli, a raving loon; she was just an unhappy person, jealous maybe, but so full of hate.


Before I could do anymore dime-store psychoanalysis on my prisoner, Flick and Derek showed up, both of them carrying restraints and nightsticks. They were our small town police force, the single sheriff and only deputy.


“What the hell?” asked Flick, reaching down to pull her up.


Once she was straight again, Derek put handcuffs on her and looked her over. “You hurt?” he asked.


“Not unless you count the wrist she practically broke. She’s fucking brutal you know. I guess in our new world being brutal’s allowed. You guys like people who hurt other people.”


“Give it a rest, Gail,” said Flick. “Don’t you ever get tired of being a pain in the ass?”


“Oh, sorryyyy mister Hollywood. What’s the matter? Bummed because you finally ran out of hair gel?”


Flick looked at me, the restraint of many practiced hours of keeping the peace on his face. “Where do you want her?”


“Put her in one of the closer cells. I need to send someone to talk to her.”


“I’m not interested in listening to the preachers anymore. They can keep their god and all that other shit to themselves.”


“It won’t be the preachers,” I said as she walked away with her jail keepers. “It’ll be the chiefs.”


“I don’t answer to any indian chief!” she yelled over her shoulder.


“They’re not indians,” I said softly, “they’re Native Americans.” I turned away and walked down the hall to the lobby. I had to go find Trip and Paci and ask them what we should do.


***


I found Paci outside with the sheep. He was watching a group of kids get trained on how to sheer them using the manual scissor things they had, courtesy of the Creek tribe. The whole process was turning out to be a mess of wool flying all over the place and kids chasing bleating animals in circles.


“Hey,” he said as I walked over to stand next to him. “What’s up?” His smile was warm, even though the constant sad look he had around his eyes over the loss of his brother was still there. It never fully went away.


“We have a problem. I’m wondering if you and Trip can come help me.”


“Supply issue?”


“No. Gail issue.”


He pulled away from the fence. “Again? When is that girl going to get a grip on herself?”


“Pretty much never, I think. She sealed the deal with me today. Threatened to stab me and then put a bullet in me.”


“Nice. I always said she must have a death wish.”


“Yeah. I just don’t see how we can keep her here. She’s nothing but trouble.”


Paci walked with me towards the prison entrance. “She’s always bothering Jenny. She’s come to me a couple times asking for advice on how to convince her to share the codes. I always tell her to just drop it.”


“Thank you for that,” I said, glad Paci was smart enough to know how to handle her without advice from me. “Gail is the last person in this entire place I’d trust with the codes.”


“Exactly. She makes me really nervous.”


“We have to decide what to do with her. Like have a trial or something. I need you and Trip there to help me. I can’t do this on my own.”


“The mark of a true leader … knowing when to ask for help.”


“I learned a lot of what I know from my dad but also from your brother.”


Paci smiled briefly before looking a little sad. “Yeah. My brother taught me everything I know. I didn’t really appreciate that before, but I do now.”


We rounded the corner to the front of the building and saw Bodo standing at the fence, staring out towards our traps set into the road.


“Go ahead inside. I’m going to talk to him,” I said.


“See you in a few.” Paci left me, passing through the open glass door. Gail’s bad news had apparently made its way to the lobby. I could see and hear kids talking in groups.


I walked over to join Bodo. I stood at his side for a little while, saying nothing. Things were more than strained between us. We’d pretty much taken a time out, spending more time apart than together. We each had our own cell-rooms, and they weren’t near one another.


“Hi,” he said finally. His voice was rough with emotion.


“Hi.”


“Is dare a problem?”


“Yes. Gail again.”


“She needts to go.”


“Yes, she does.” My chest tightened. There was so much to say, but I didn’t want to be the one to start.


“I think I should go too,” Bodo finally said. “Maybe chust to have a break for a little while.”

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