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Bennett decided to head in the opposite direction to that in which the garage had been.
They were roughly a mile into their journey when headlights lit up the gloom.
They ducked down behind the wall of the old cemetery, their knees sinking into the warm sludge on the ground.
Pablo leant out of the passenger side of the window, waving a shotgun around menacingly.
A torch beam was crudely duct taped to the end of the gun.
‘When we find you, you’re gonna go in the fucking van,’ he bellowed, laughing and discharging a shotgun blast that slammed into the wall ten feet away from them.
‘Ain’t no escape from us, motherfucker,’ one of the other men bellowed.
Another gun blast went off, from the other side of the van.
‘No fucking escape.’
The van crawled past, the torch beams lancing through the shadows around them.
They seemed to just be here at random, but it was distressing that they were taking such a long time to search.
The van stopped after maybe ten feet.
It was getting closer.
‘You out there, fucker?’ Pablo said.
The torch beam played over the tombstones, making the tree branches dance around the graveyard like undead fingers.
‘I’ll hold ’em off, you make a run for it,’ Bennett said.
‘I can’t leave you.’
‘If it means me dying to save you then so be it. At least I’ll have done something good with my life. You head through the graveyard and keep going that way till you get to the next town. I’ll follow you. If I can, you get my drift.’
She nodded. ‘There’s got to be another way.’
‘Ain’t no other way. You get to the next town, hole yourself up in the bookshop there. Gods willing, I’ll be there with ya soon.’
She looked at him speechless for a second.
‘You’d best go,’ Bennett said, pointing to the van.
The door was coming open now, one of the men was stepping out.
He was headed away from where they hid, but it seemed obvious they were going to keep looking until they found them.
‘It’s been a blast,’ Bennett said.
‘Thank you for everything.’
‘It’s me who should be thanking you.’ He held her tight for a second, then shoved her away.
She crouched low and made her way between the tombstones as Pablo got out of the van too and shouted, ‘Well ho-ly shee-it! I just found me a footprint!’
Monique longed to turn back and help Bennett, but she respected his wish.
By the code he had recently chosen to live by, if it was his time to die he would go gladly.
She could still cling to the threadbare hope of finding her daughter.
She had to keep going for that.
A quick glance back revealed torch beams carving through the night behind her.
A second van was speeding by on the other side of the graveyard.
The first gunshot tore through the night and she did a one-eighty on her idea of helping Bennett.
The only problem was her body refused to let her turn and go back to him.
It kept her moving through the gravestones towards the other side.
More gunshots went off and she had a feeling that it would be the last time she would see Bennett.
She kept moving, hoping beyond hope that she was quiet enough to escape detection.
Torch beams passed over her, and she felt almost like they were burning her through the space suit.
It was certainly unwelcome.
They waved around erratically, reassuring her that they hadn’t actually spotted her.
Still, she felt it was only a matter of time.
The gun in her quaking hand seemed so light as to be ineffectual, as though it may as well have been a kid’s water pistol.
She pressed herself down low, into the stone side of one of the bigger graves.
She felt the cold stone even through the suit she wore.
It sent chills racing down her spine, as though it was her own grave she was standing upon.
‘Some fucker in there?’ a voice said.
Her skin prickled beneath the protective layer.
She ducked down, struggled to fit the silencer.
Her hands shook enough to make it a futile exercise.
She cursed under her breath and tried again.
Footsteps thudded through the graves towards her.
She gained the foresight to creep forward a little while continuing to screw the silencer onto the barrel.
A man appeared out of the gloom, his footsteps fast but unsteadied by alcohol’s touch.
She raised the gun as he peered round the edge of where she had been hiding not even a minute ago.
It kicked in her hand, much more intense than it had in the shooting range she and Bennett had made in the book store.
The round missed her intended target of the man’s head and instead drilled through his right pectoral.
Blood instantly began to spread on his navy blue Nike jacket, turning the white tick emblem black.
He clutched the wound, teeth gritted against the pain.
She aimed again and blew a couple of his fingers off.
He screamed, staring at his half-hand in bemused horror.
She moved a few steps closer, breathed deep and slow, just like Bennett had taught her.
This time, her shot went right through the centre of his forehead.
The wound looked like a weeping third eye.
Blood hit the gravestone behind him with a wet splat.
He fell back onto the gravestone, his blood racing fast over it.
She watched, dumb for a second, thinking, holy shit, I did that.
Then she regained her senses and began to creep away.
The journey through the ravaged graveyard was creepy as shit, especially with the darkness reducing her view to only a sliver.
Tunnel vision in the extreme.
It reminded her of the shitty found footage films she’d used to enjoy back in the days before the world began its slow, agonising death.
Some idiot creeps through alien terrain in search of sanctuary.
And it goes on long enough to raise the tension, to let the viewer begin to believe that everything is gonna be ok.
But then the monster comes out and nails them just as they begin to think they’ve made it.
She shook her head.
It’s nothing like that.
Movement from her right made her head snap to the side.
She fired two fast shots, feeling dumb as shit when she realised it was just the skeletal branches of a dying tree moving in the wind.
At least I hit the fucking thing, she thought.
The cemetery railing came out of the gloom and she felt a wave of relief crash over her.
She cracked a grin.
Then took it off her lips just as quick when she saw that there was a man patrolling the railings, a shotgun in his black gloved hands.
The man was built like a brick shithouse.
The shotgun in his hands looked huge.
Suddenly she was drowning in self-doubt.
A confrontation with him was the last thing she wanted.
She’d already convinced herself it would be the last thing she ever did.
Her eyes scanned in vain for alternative escape routes.
There were none.
The walls were too high.
The fences too sharp.
She couldn’t risk nicking the suit on the railings, or a slow, agonising death could be on the cards.
She weighed up her options and decided that at least being blasted out of existence by a twelve gauge would be quick, not like wasting away from radiation poisoning.
Though it made her sick to her stomach, she knew she had to face down the man with the shotgun.
Her legs shook beneath her, her hands palsied.
She doubted she could even fire straight, let alone hit her intended target.
The man was patrolling back and forth near the gate to the cemetery.
He had a stern grimace upon his face.
Monique knew that facing him meant a battle for life and death.
The idea chilled her blood, threatened to drive all semblance of rational thought from her pounding head.
She took a few moments to gather her thoughts.
The gunshots behind her grew louder, the torch beams beginning to draw ever closer.
She knew she didn’t have long.
Time to kill.
Or time to die.
Let’s see what you fucking got, baby.
She smiled a grim smile and stepped onto the path that led to the gates.
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