Chapter 5 - Entry 4
April 28th cont.
“Good to see you again Jaeger. Thanks for clearing those critters out for us.”
I nodded and shook Dave’s offered hand, turning to face Mr. Green more fully as he stepped forward. “Dave, this is Hope. Hope, Dave.” An upnod towards the suited man followed. “And this is Mr. Green.”
“Ah Miss Jaeger. A pleasure to see you again. I must commend you and your young associate here on the marksmanship shown just now. To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?”
“Came to speak with Marley and Mary.”
“Oh I see. Of course. They’re likely in the hotel’s business center, working hard on establishing a connection to what remains of the internet. A productive pair, those two.”
Dave remained silent as the Green Snake spoke, gaze shifting back and forth between us. I offered a smile and turned without another word, leaving Hope to catch up as I made my way inside the hotel.
Green had been right. Marley, Mary and a trio of other college-aged kids were gathered around a gutted computer, drinking soda and chatting. I introduced Hope after hugs were given and Mary rattled off the strangers’ names. Lu was among them, a tall dark-haired boy with a runner’s build and lots of tattoos covering both muscular arms. One of those arms encircled Mary’s waist.
“Marley, can I speak with you in private for a moment.” Her expression dropped as she nodded and led me towards a small room attached to the business center. She spoke before I could.
“It’s Maliqe, isn’t it? Is she ok?”
“No hun. She’s dead.” That’s me. Miss Subtlety. “We were in a building when the quake hit yesterday. The roof collapsed on us. She didn’t make it.”
Little hands balled into fists as the tears started to flow, Marley showing a bit of her mother’s fortitude while she stood there processing my words in silence. Then she dashed forward and threw both arms around me, sobbing into my coat as I awkwardly returned the hug. I held her there for awhile, waiting until she got her emotions somewhat under control. My own were deeply buried, exactly where I wanted them.
Marley’s friends surrounded her as we stepped out into the main room, apparently informed by Hope of what had happened. I moved aside and let them offer comfort while Hope came to stand beside me.
“You ok?” She asked.
There was a commotion in the hallway outside so I caught Mary’s eye and raised my chin towards the door. She nodded in reply before Hope and I left, following raised voices and a few running forms towards the hotel’s main lobby.
The smell hit me before words became clear; raw sewage mingled with smoky rain, the scent overpowering as it drifted through open double doors. Lockwood, Mr. Green and Dave stood in the center of a growing circle of people. Most stepped aside when I leveled my pure-white gaze their way. Being unnatural has its benefits sometimes. Hope followed in my wake.
“…to do something about this Mr. Fargo!” Lockwood was shouting, red faced with anger as his neatly pressed white dress shirt grew stained from ash-tainted rain.
“It’s the ash. Mixing with all this rain. I told you the sewer system wasn’t going to handle it for long.” Dave, flanked by both Mannys, wasn’t shouting back but there was obvious frustration in his tone.
“Explain it to us again, Mr. Fargo, if you please.” That from Green, who had placed a calming hand on Lockwood’s shoulder.
“This ash isn’t like the stuff you get from burning wood, right? It’s more like powdered rock. All this rain is mixing with it as it runs down into the sewer system. Now there’s a layer of this shit two inches thick and hard as cement. Pipes are getting blocked by it and there’s nothing I can do.”
“Cannot, or will not?”
Dave offered an exasperated sigh to Lockwood’s question but Mr. Green’s monotone voice calmed the situation.
“I fear this is something beyond Mr. Fargo’s ability to repair. The septic and sewer systems of a town this size simply aren’t designed to….” His words paused as the ground buckled violently beneath our feet.
Cries of alarm and fear rang out. People fell on their asses. A few windows from the hotel’s upper floors popped out and crashed to the street in miniature explosions of glass. Mr. Green’s hand gripped Lockwood’s shoulder and helped the flailing man remain standing until the quake was over.
“That was the worst one since all this mess started,” Someone moaned behind us.
I nodded in agreement and handed Hope my radio. “Check in with your Dad. Make sure everything’s ok.”
While Hope stepped away to make contact with the station, I headed back inside to check on Marley and Mary. They, like the others, were shaken and scared but unharmed except for a few bumps and bruises. Hope was speaking to Mr. Green when I stepped back outside, her eyes wide with fear.
“Jaeger! Dad says the little dam up river is breaking up.”
“How big was it?” I asked. Dave answered.
“They corked it where three streams fed into the Moodus Lake so the flow wouldn’t be as high where Moodus feeds into the Bashan. It’s not going to be a tidal wave but the lower parts of town will probably flood a foot or two.”
Lockwood looked relieved until Dave clarified that he meant at street level. Meaning, basements would flood. I didn’t’ wait for the reply.
“Go start the Humvee,” I barked at Hope while tossing her the keys and heading back inside the hotel. Marley and Mary were still with their little group when I came into the room and told them what was happening. Outside in the hallway, Lockwood was yelling for people to help move his things from his room on the first floor.
“We need to get out of here. The fire station’s on a hill. Should be fine. No basement. Grab a few things and let’s go.”
Mary shook her head. “No Jaeger. We’re going to stay here. This is our home now.”
Anger washed over me just as cries of alarm sounded from the street outside. We moved to look out the windows and saw a small wave rolling between the buildings. “Where’s the generator?”
“In the basement.” One of the others replied.
“Where’s all the town’s sewage?”
Heads shook and shoulder’s shrugged.
“Under the streets. What do you think is going to happen in a few weeks to buildings with basements full of water?” Again my questioning gaze was met with confused looks and I snarled in frustration, punching the wall hard enough to leave a hole in the plaster.
“Fucking THINK, people. A flooded basement means no generator. No sunlight and wet walls means mildew and rot. Mold that’ll spread inside the walls. Raw sewage is going to be floating in the streets. All those dead bodies are going to be sitting in a foot of water. Where do you think your drinking water comes from? This town is fucking DONE.”
I stepped in front of Marley and got in her face, blank eyes leveled into hers as I spoke, tone low and full of anger. “I gave Maliqe my word that I’d watch out for you. The others can stay, but you’re coming with me if I have to knock your ass out and carry you over my shoulder. Go pack your shit. Now.”
“Can everyone come?” Mary asked, chewing her lip furiously.
“Everyone in the hotel? No.”
“There’s seven of us that hang together.”
“Yeah. That’s fine. But GET MOVING! Pack whatever you don’t want stolen. We can replace everything else and come back for what’s left.” Growling, I stepped back outside while the group dashed off in all directions. Hope had the Humvee running, window down as Dave spoke to her.
I interrupted whatever they were discussing by reaching my hand out for the radio. Dave took a step back as I barked orders to Henry. “Shut down the genset and flip off the circuit breakers for the ground floor. Start packing. We’re leaving this town.”
“Where you guys headed?” He asked after I’d tossed the radio back inside.
“No fucking clue. This town is toast though. We both know it’ll be uninhabitable in a few weeks.”
Dave nodded and waved away a woman wearing a business suit when she clamored for his attention. “Your family’s local, right Hope?” He continued after she replied that they were. “Take Jaeger across the lake to the old asylum.”
To me he added, “It was my first choice when I realized what was happening. Needs a lot of work but if you can get it fixed up, it’ll be better than anything else in this part of the state.”
“You comin with us?” I asked.
Dave shook his head slowly at my question and nodded towards the hotel. “Lockwood’s a business man. Politician type. Not one bit of common sense. But there are a lot of people that’ll stick with him no matter what. I’m going to try and keep them alive. But save me and a few others some room. Not going to go down with the ship, if you know what I mean?”
Some of Mary’s group were wading through ankle-high water as Dave spoke. I nodded towards them and waved at Hope to help. “Tie shit on the roof. Gonna be a tight fit to do in one trip.”
“Listen Jaeger. There’s still people scattered around West Moodus. Small clumps and groups. A few have CBs and I’ve been talking to them on and off for a few days. West Moodus is lower than here so they’re gonna get hit a lot worse by this. I know you got more than your fair share of responsibility already but if you get set up at the asylum, I’d like to send some folks your way.”
I sighed longsufferingly and raked fingers through my hair, looking up at the black sky and growling in exasperation. “God damn it Dave. I’m not a fucking savior.”
“You don’t need to be Jaeger. Just help out whoever you can.” He turned then and headed towards the hotel, pulling one of the Mannys over for a word as they stepped inside. The other Manny waited to open the gate for us to leave.
Eight people, Mary’s group plus Hope, jumped when I punched the Humvee hard enough to make it rock, riding the pain of a broken finger before it numbed and healed. “Get in the fuckin truck. Let’s get out of here.”