Chapter Twenty Five

Posted: April 6, 2014 in Chapters, Love in the ZA
Tags: , ,

     Vinnie’s stride was quick and wide, his boots echoing dully down the thinly-carpeted hallway. Maddie had to hustle to keep up with him. She wasn’t sure where they were going, where he planned to find supplies on a day like today; between the announcement and the exodus, she suspected every shop that sold anything resembling a weapon would be over-run within the hour. She remembered the pharmacy riot and shuddered. This will be worse.

     Lost in her own thoughts, she didn’t realize he’d stopped until she fetched up against his back. It was like crashing into a concrete wall – she bounced back with a grunt, and he didn’t even flinch.

     “What’s wrong?”

     He held up a finger to silence her. Head cocked, he stood before an apartment door, listening. Maddie hovered behind him, impatient and confused, until he frowned and moved away.

     “Somebody you know?” she asked as they headed down the first flight of stairs.

     He threw her a surprised look over his shoulder. “She let us use her phone.”

     Honeybunch.

     “There’s no one to call,” Maddie said. They paused at the landing, listening again, before heading down another flight. “Help is leaving,” she continued.

     “I don’t want her phone.”

     Maddie pictured the older woman: her kind face; her soft wave of gray hair; her low-heeled black string-shoes, clicking across the kitchen as she’d served them cookies. Like a storybook Grandma, Maddie remembered thinking, down to the slight quiver in her voice when she’d told Maddie she was a good girl for calling her mother.

     The way her palsied hand had shaken when she’d waved goodbye down the hall.

     They paused, listened, descended again.

     “You want to take her,” she said, ashamed of the surprise she felt. “When we go. If we go.”

     He shrugged. “She let us use her phone,” he repeated. Unspoken was the fact that she’d been the only one to do so.

     Funny, the things that determine your worth when the apocalypse comes.

     Finally they reached the lobby. Maddie headed for the front door, only to be jerked back by her hood.

     “What the hell?!” She batted his hands away.

     “Not out there.” Vinnie pointed at a door, tucked under the back of the stairs. “Downstairs.”

     “The basement?” Maddie furrowed her brow. “What’s in the basement?” She gasped. “Do you know a fence?!”

     He laughed, so long that she blushed. “Do you even know what a fence is?”

     “Yes!” Maddie defended. “I live here too. I’ve seen….well, heard things.”

     He chuckled again. “You’re an uptown girl,” he said, a trace of bitterness in his voice. “You don’t know anything.”

     She opened her mouth to argue further, but he walked away before she could start. “Come on,” he said, ignoring her angry glare.

     She considered refusing, then remembered why they were down here in the first place. Suddenly conscious of the big glass doors that led to the outside – doors anybody could open, or any thing – she hurried to follow.

     “Watch your step,” he warned as they started down. “It’s dark down there. The stairs are old. Don’t trip.”

     Maddie grabbed his hand. “What if someone’s down there?” she asked, aware that she was whispering. “What if…one of them…”

     “Could be.” He squeezed her hand. “You can wait here.”

     She glanced again at the glass doors, and shook her head. “No way. Just…stay close.”

     He nodded. “Promise.”

     Hand-in-hand, they stepped down into the darkness.

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