William McDonough was putting on his uniform for his upcoming shift when the call came in. Shots fired. A half mile from his home.
There was a time when a call like that would have got him pumped for some action. Now it was just another day in a world gone crazy. This was a small town but it certainly had its share of crime and the introduction of the Lawless only made things worse. Government spending was very limited which meant that the number of officers available was laughable.
Being one of the few paid law enforcement officers left he had no choice but to respond now. It was going to be a long night.
He slowly meandered out the door and to his vehicle. Opening the driver side door, he paused when he noticed fresh boot prints in the ever-deepening snow. His hand went to his gun and he followed the tracks a short distance to a large bush in front of his house. William was more than prepared to shoot any Lawless on sight.
“Come out, now, and show me your hands,” he yelled over the wind.
Two gloved hands slowly reached over the hedge and a man came tumbling out. He tried to get up.
“Don’t move,” William said calmly but firmly. He stalked over to the man, put his gun away and deftly handcuffed him. He was hauled up and thrown a little too harshly into the front of his SUV.
“William, it’s me,” the man said, out of breath.
William pulled back the hood of the intruder and looked puzzled.
“Julien? What the hell are you doing creeping around my house?” he asked. “And why are you out in this weather?”
Julien looked terrified and exhausted. William led him into the house and released his handcuffs.
“Sit down, I’ll get you some coffee. Tell me what’s going on.” William started a small fire in the fireplace and went to work in the kitchen making a large pot of coffee.
Julien explained to William the situation with Mayra and all that had just happened with the Lawless. He started in on his third cup of when William interjected.
“Why were you hiding?”
“You know the way things are, Will. After that guy got his head blown off, I didn’t want to be caught up and detained. I have to get to Mayra. I need your help.”
William stared for a long moment at Julien, seeming to weigh his options. The air felt heavy with indecision.
“Don’t move.” William said as he left the room.
For a moment Julien wondered whether he should flee back into the snow and avoid the long delay of being taken in for questioning. But William was quick to come back. He held up a large black duffel bag that looked to be overfull.
“What is this?” Julien inquired.
“It’s an emergency bag. You’re gonna need it, buddy.” William said with a knowing look.
Life was getting harder by the day and a trip like the one Julien was planning was going to test all of his resolve.
“I’ll take you to the southern border of the county,” William said, “but I can’t be out of my jurisdiction and boy, you’ve got a long way to go.”
“Thank you, Will.” Julien let go a relieved sigh.
“C’mon,” said William, “I’ll get one of the volunteer deputies to cover me for a bit, but you’ve got to go now.”
As they pulled up to the rest stop at the county border William cut the lights to the SUV and made a slow perimeter check.
“You know how dangerous this is, right? You can travel in the day without too many problems, but you can’t be caught after curfew. And your timing has to be spot on to find a secure place to sleep every night.”
“I know,” Julien said, “but I don’t have a choice, Will.”
William nodded his agreement. “I have to get back now. I don’t see any sign of other people here but that doesn’t mean it’s safe.”
He reached between the seats and brought out a .45 caliber 1911 style pistol and handed it to Julien.
“Now, I know you know how to use this, but do your best not to. There’s a couple of boxes of ammunition in the bag I gave you.”
Julien took the pistol and gave his friend a brotherly hug. “Thank you.”
“Godspeed, buddy.” William looked at him with concern.
Julien nodded and began to get out of the SUV.
“You watch yourself, Julien.” His friend said. “Those Lawless don’t give any quarter. Don’t hesitate to defend yourself.”
Julien nodded and got out with is bag.
“And sleep with one eye open tonight.”
Julien closed the door and made his way towards the single lightless building that comprised the rest stop.