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‘I know,’ Bennett said. ‘I bumped into them a few days back at the supermarket.’
‘What?’ She dropped the gun and raced across the room, her hand flying towards his face.
He blocked the blow and pushed a firm hand into her sternum, knocking her backwards without hurting her.
‘Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?’ she said, eyes filling with sullen tears.
‘I didn’t want to scare you.’
She rushed him again and he let her come this time, her blows turning to ineffectual slaps on his chest and arms and shoulders as sadness overwhelmed her rage.
He held her tight, both of their bodies shaking with the force of her sobs.
‘What’s wrong?’ he said.
‘I felt so scared out there. I felt useless. If anything had happened I don’t think I would have been able to do anything to stop it.’
He pushed her back slightly, wincing at the way the tears seeped from her swollen eyes.
‘Mon, I feel like that every time I get into a fight. It gets better, the more you get used to it. But, in a way, you never really get used to it. You just learn to deal with it. Which you will once you’ve dipped your toe in the water a bit.’
She looked up at him, smiled a sad smile which broke his heart a little.
‘It gets better,’ he smiled down at her. ‘Trust me.’
‘But I don’t trust you,’ she said, with a huge sniff.
He let go of her as she recoiled from his embrace.
She looked up at him, sorrow now evaporated by a seething rage.
He stared back at her, confusion writ large across his face.
His finger had again begun that infuriating tapping on his outer thigh.
He went to open his mouth but she got in first.
‘How the hell can I trust you, Bennett?’ she raged.
Again he tried to speak, but this was destined to be a one-way exchange.
‘I mean, there are people sharing this town with us. By the sound of them they’re real assholes. And the decent thing to do would be to warn me, give me the option to leave if I want to, but what do you do? You say fuck all.’
He went to speak again.
‘I’m not fucking finished,’ she said, wagging her finger at him. ‘Worse than that is the fact that you’re still lying to me about your past. You don’t have to say anything you don’t want to, but don’t look me in the eye and fill my ears with bullshit.’
He went to defend himself but his words were half-hearted.
‘And you’re only making it worse now,’ she said. ‘So no, I don’t fucking trust you.’
And with that she stormed off into one of the back rooms, slamming the door behind her.
Bennett sat in silence, staring at his hands.
Everything she’d said had been right and it had hit home hard.
He’d been all about righting his wrongs, addressing the mistakes of his past and doing whatever he could to turn the tide of his actions.
Sure, he got the impression he was pissing in the wind, but when judgement day came, he wanted to at least say he’d tried to make amends.
He’d at least got some good medicine going his way.
What he’d done and what he’d told her went against that.
It was his duty to tell her the truth, no matter the outcome.
He brayed on the door, his knuckles leaving tiny dents in the wood.
There was no answer.
Nor did he expect there to be.
‘Mon, I understand how you’re feeling. I really do. But there’s a reason I haven’t told you this shit.’
The door flew open before he could say any more.
‘And what’s that? Cos you’re too fucking chickenshit?’ she spat.
‘No. It was to protect you. I didn’t want you freaking out and doing something that was going to end up hurting you. If you had found out about them what would your first reaction have been?’
She shrugged, fixing him with a sullen stare.
‘If I know you as well as I think I do, you’d have packed up and fucked off. Wouldn’t you?’
She stared, trying to think of a reply.
‘Yes, you would.’
She grudgingly nodded.
‘So, you’d have left a secure location – where you have a trained killer to protect you – and just gone running off into the wreckage without a second thought. Is that fair?’
She thought about it for a second.
‘You’re far safer in here with me than you are out there with fuck knows what lurking around.’
She conceded that he had a point.
‘And my past? For one thing it’s none of your goddamned business. For another, it’s not something I’m particularly proud of. But in the interests of getting my medicine right, I was one day going to tell you. May as well be today. May as well be right this fucking instant.’
She furrowed her brow at him.
‘Before you ask, again the main reason I didn’t tell you is for your safety. If I told you about this, first thing you would have done is pack your shit up and get the fuck outta dodge. Even now, that may well be your answer.’
She looked him up and down, her anger seemingly lifted a little.
‘Well now you’ve got me intrigued.’
Bennett led her to the sofa where she sat.
He cracked one of the beers they’d found in the supermarket – weren’t many left, since the other inhabitants of the town seemed to be taking them in bulk – and handed it to her.
He popped a couple for himself, necked one and put the empty bottle on the table.
After taking a deep breath, he began.
‘Ok, so I wasn’t in the army. Well not exactly. I was a contract killer. Hired by the government to try to control the population. Kinda like culling animals. See they knew we were running out of resources. Knew there were too many mouths to feed. So we were sent in to get rid of people.’
Monique was staring at him, her eyes laser-focussed on him.
She looked as if she’d been slapped.
‘We’d be in there, gunning people down. The blame was always on terrorists. But terrorism isn’t a real thing. It was us all along. They just needed someone to deflect it onto.
‘One day we’d be mowing down tourists in a speeding car. The next we’d be rupturing a gas pipe in a tower block, to make an explosion look like a tragic accident.
‘Another time we’d be sent in, guns blazing, to take down a high street full of shoppers.’
He scoffed a little at this, taking a swig of his beer.
Monique eyeballed him, the veins standing out in her neck like a raging bull.
She’d heard enough and stormed off.
He was so absorbed in his confessional that he didn’t realise what he’d said until he heard her door slam shut.
Then he smacked himself upside the head.
He realised there was no sense in trying to talk her round now.
She’d probably storm out of here and never return.
He was ready to follow her when she did.
Make sure that she didn’t come to any harm.
It was the least he could do.
It was a surprise that she didn’t come out, bag in hand, seeking a new life outside the walls that they had worked hard to fortify together.
He heard her cursing, ranting and raving, throwing things around, punching walls, kicking things, smashing the meagre furnishings to pieces.
It went on a lot longer than he’d thought.
In the end, he sunk a couple more beers and went to bed.
Guilt seemed to have sapped his energy.
He stared at the ceiling for a while, then forced himself to relax and sleep.
Assuming when he woke he would be on his own.
In a blind rage, Monique had smashed the room to pieces.
It was the first time she’d ever lost control as badly as this.
But this was a new world with new rules.
No longer would she internalise her problems.
When she’d finished, she sunk into a deep depression, staring at the wall.
Remembering better times.
She took the handgun from the holster on her hip.
She stared at it for a long time, unsure of what to do with it.
Her gut was telling her to do one thing.
Her heart another.
He was one of the fucks who did this to us.
He was part of this.
Your family are dead because of men like him.
This final thought made her snap and she knew what she had to do.
The room was in darkness, save for a dim triangle of light coming in from the corridor.
Bennett was laid on his left side, facing the doorway.
No doubt a self-preservation trick he’d learnt during his time spent gunning down innocent men, women and kids.
Tears streamed down Monique’s face as she moved into the room.
The floor was quiet, or else he’d already have woken and no doubt put her out of her misery.
She stared at him, his sleeping face blurred by the haze of tears.
She felt utter hatred for him and what he was.
Felt furious at herself for being pulled in.
But she also wished he had never told her.
He’d been a protector, a mentor, someone to look up to.
His fall from grace had been quick and spectacular.
She crept round the side of the bed, the gun in her trembling right hand.
The safety was off.
The round chambered.
He was still snoring as she neared the other side of the bed.
He hadn’t moved.
His back was to her.
He was defenceless, just like the many victims he had claimed in the name of his sick line of work.
It was poetic justice as far as she was concerned.
She moved in, holding her breath now to avoid waking him.
Her heart pounded so loud she was certain he would hear it.
If she fucked this up, he would kill her, she had no doubt.
There was no coming back from this.
The worry sickened her.
She was no killer.
She’d been a wife.
But now all that had been taken from her she had to be something else.
I’ll be his goddamned medicine, she thought, the idea making her face set in a determined grimace.
She moved the gun close, so it was millimetres from his right temple.
Her finger moved up onto the trigger.
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