Part III in Evie and Owen’s story of surviving the government-created zombie apocalypse. Part I & II can be found here.
Owen ran one of Thad’s filthy bar towels over E’s bare arms and legs. She rolled her eyes as he carefully examined her skin to make sure there were no open bites or scratches. Owen had seen her in less clothing before. It was critical to make sure no tweaker blood came in contact with her own. Satisfied that the gore wasn’t a danger, he handed her the towel and stripped off his coat and shirt.
“There’s hardly any blood on you,” she muttered as she eyed his skin for new wounds.
Scars rippled across his chest and shoulders and distorted the muscles on his back. They were all healed, white against his caramel skin. E bit her lip. She recognized the gash on his shoulder and the misshapen circle where a bullet pierced the flesh of his bicep. The others were unfamiliar to her.
“Check anyway,” Owen said over his shoulder.
E ran the rag over the few smears of rust on his back and arms, unable to look away from the scars seaming his back. They looked like claw marks.
“Clean,” she said, turning and tossing the rag into a pile of others.
Thad and his boys already checked for bites and washed up as best they could in the squalid bathroom. E pulled on her pants, feeling better once she wore more than just her thin t-shirt.
“Knew you still had it,” Owen said, almost in her ear.
She whirled on him, tugging the hem of her shirt down ineffectually. He already saw the scorpion tattoo, twin to the one on his arm, just above the tops of her over-sized jeans.
“Getting a tattoo removed right now is ’bout as easy as getting a divorce,” E said.
Owen crossed his arms over his bare chest and smirked at her. E blushed again and swore. She’d seen him naked more times than she could count, no reason to blush like a teenager. She returned to the bar and her mug of warm beer, downing it without hesitation. The tweakers went down easily. Thad’s boys were well-armed and decent shots. Owen took down two for every one anyone else killed. It took them less than an hour to make sure the whole pack was dead. Thad would burn the bodies once several hours passed without a tweaker sighting.
“That thirsty, love?” Owen closed the distance between them.
E sidestepped the arm he tried to drape over her shoulder and reached for her jacket where her several knives were strapped in the lining. Owen grabbed her wrists instead, and his fingers tightened when she tried to pull away.
“Let me go, Owen,” E said quietly.
His grey eyes narrowed for a moment, but he released her, holding his hands up in surrender.
“You’re all alone, Evie, love. Don’t think I don’t know it,” he leaned against the bar, his voice even as she pulled on her jacket, feeling safer knowing her knives were close at hand. “Heard you was running with Chett and his crew. Last anybody heard they was feeding flesh-eaters and the crocs in the swamp.”
E shrugged, “Maybe they are.”
“You were with Chett then?” Owen’s asked.
“He was the last one after a big group of other uninfected ambushed our camp. Bastards,” E said. “He cut his leg and let some tweaker bleed all over him when we were in the swamps, so I put him down.” She checked the buckles and straps on her pack, making sure everything was secure. “Alone isn’t something new to me, Owen.”
She looked him in the eye, and grinned when he looked away first. She picked up her pack and walked towards the door. Thad would understand that she didn’t wait to say goodbye.
“I’ve got a mate with a plane,” Owen’s spoke so softly she almost didn’t hear.
“Well, looks like you’ve still got that same luck goin’ for you,” Evie said.
“There’s a spot, if you want it.”
E turned slowly, “How the hell you get a plane?”
“This mate, I helped him out of a bad spot a while back. He said he had a plane–a Cessna–and that if I got to the old diner off the highway north of here, he’d come and take me to California. Said he heard people out there know of safe houses, compounds,” Owen’s eyes never left hers.
His voice held the same husky excitement she remembered whenever he said he had a lucky break coming, that he could just feel it.
“Your man’s little plane is gonna fly us all the way from here to California? Well, damn it, let me make sure I got a swimsuit,” E said.
Owen’s eyes flickered at her tone and she felt a grim satisfaction that her words touched him.
“You can’t stay here, Evie. The south’s overrun—they say it’s better out there, that they got it under control quicker.”
“I heard Los Angeles fell in a week, that San Francisco was gone in two. You telling me that California is our best bet? I’d rather die close to home,” E tried not to think about dying at all. She wasn’t going to be food for some flesh-eating tweakers no matter where she was.
“We might die in California, we’ll definitely die here. C’mon, Evie, just try your luck with me again,” Owen moved between her and the door.
E exhaled, mind racing as she found all the holes in his ragged plan. But, she knew he was right. She saw more and more tweakers every week; the packs were getting bigger. People said they liked the warm, damp weather. Owen saw her wavering and took a step towards her.
“California has boats and maybe more people with planes—we could go anywhere from there,” he had her cornered.
“I’ll get on your plane, but when we land I’m gone,” she said.
Owen’s satisfied grin almost changed her mind, but she set down her pack and walked back to the bar. Thad left a bottle of Jim Beam on the counter when the tweakers attacked and she unscrewed the top and took a long pull. As the bourbon burned its way down her throat she could only hope this wasn’t a one way ticket to disaster.
With Owen, she never knew.