The wind carried the snow in undulating sheets across the hills. A flickering streetlight gave yellowish glimpses of the otherwise majestic scene, but tonight he could not admit that anything was beautiful.
Two nights ago, she had stopped calling. Two nights ago, he had lost his patience with the current state of the world. He was going to find her. Mayra, his wife.
In November she had gone to Mexico to be with her mother in her last days. It was February now and the fallout from the economic collapse had prevented her from coming home. And things were only getting worse in the world.
Julien was aware of how good the US had things in the midst of it all but the whole world felt the strain. Those in power did everything they could to keep it and the Lawless caused fear and panic that led to martial law in the metropolitan areas. Smaller communities were not so heavily policed but restrictions and curfews were still enforced. Rationing had begun. Food, water, electricity.
The Lawless held some sway in nearly every city but controlled the coasts mostly. It was a constant battle between them and ordinary citizens.
The military fought to maintain control but tensions were also rising between nations and rumors of war kept most people living in dread. Dread of their finances, of those in power, but mostly of the Lawless.
A sudden slamming of the front screen door brought him back to the present. The wind was picking up and he knew he had to get a move on his plans before the weather turned even worse.
Throwing on his heavy coat and lifting his pack of essentials, he flipped off the living room light and trudged out into the snow.
The brim of his hat helped to keep his sight clear but the blizzard was now raging and visibility was incredibly low. Given the curfew that was in place this might actually work to his advantage. He of course had a car but he couldn’t be caught out of doors this late. That would mean jail time. He had a long way to go to find Mayra and he wasn’t going to be derailed at the start of his journey.
In this weather it would take him roughly 30 minutes to get to William’s house. It was a risk of course because William was a Sheriff’s Deputy. He was a great friend, but he was also the law. He was risking his entire plan at the outset but the help that William could provide was crucial to everything.
The halfway point proved to pass relatively smoothly, despite the cold and the snow that settled under his hood and froze his neck. No one else seemed to be out in the storm and the “lights out” order helped to hide his illicit travel.
A short break in the wind settled the driving snow momentarily and stopped his heart for a brief second. One block ahead he could barely make out the shape of two figures coming toward him on the road. Lawless. They had to be. They were dressed in white to conceal themselves and coming up on him quick.
They were a ruthless group that preyed on anyone and everyone. Truly they were anarchists who swiftly took advantage of the decline of society. Connected by the Lawless name only, they were thugs in every respect who took what they wanted at any price. The fear they caused gave them great power and influence.
Julien dove into a nearby ditch and slowed his breathing as best he could. He knew his mistake right away but there was nothing he could do but wait and hope. His clothing was dark and stuck out in the glittering white. The shallow ditch did little to conceal his form.
Their voices were audible now and he froze. His face was already numb from laying in the frigid snow. The wind picked up again and he briefly hoped this would keep their heads down as they passed by.
The Lawless stopped. They were only feet away from him.
A raspy male voice came barely above a whisper over the wind.
“We see you, friend.” The voice pretended to be courteous but only came out that much more sinister.
Julien didn’t budge. He held to a small but vain hope that maybe they weren’t talking to him. He began to shake. He didn’t want to die here. Not now.
The snow crunched under the footsteps of the Lawless.
Julien attempted to get up and run but the man kicked him in the side and he fell into a chain link fence belonging to the nearest house.
Two things happened then. A shot rang out from the doorway of the house and a smattering of dark liquid landed on the snow like a ghoulish abstract painting.
The man that had kicked him over now fell to the ground and the other began to run. Julien, without thinking, got to his feet and ran the way the men had approached him. Another shot rang out.