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They spent the night at Monique’s place.
At one point, Mon had got an alarm on her security system.
They’d been amazed to watch her roll out of windows, sniper rifle in hand.
‘She’s my fucking hero,’ Luna said, watching her lining up a kill shot.
The threat turned out to be a false alarm.
‘Old machinery keeps getting tripped by the garbage blowing by,’ Monique explained. ‘I like it sensitive, but not so much that it wakes me up three times a fucking night like it does at the moment.’
‘You wouldn’t have any of this in the Freelands, like,’ Luna smiled.
‘Cut that shit out,’ Monique snapped, her eyes blazing into them. And they were scared to see this side of her directed at them. ‘I got my own shit to do. I’ve told you I’m not going to live there with you. If you ask me again you can make your own goddamned way back home.’
‘Sorry,’ Luna scowled.
‘Wipe that look off your face right now, young lady,’ Monique spat.
Luna did as she was told.
She’d cooked pancakes for them all, and it was just like Pancake Tuesday had been before.
Once they’d eaten they all showered then met back in the living room.
‘I’ll take you guys back now, if you’re ready,’ she said.
The hearse Monique drove was unreal, decked out with red leather seats and a heavy metal soundtrack bursting from the speakers.
‘Such a fucking badass,’ Luna muttered again, shaking her head in awe.
The drive through the decaying landscape seemed to fly by and before they knew it they were at the outskirts of the Freelands.
The huge boulders at this side of the Freelands were casting a rough perimeter to keep vehicles out.
‘We ain’t getting any closer,’ Monique said. ‘Not without a fucking bulldozer.’
‘Come in with us,’ Tia said.
‘I told you already,’ Monique began, but Tia shook her head furiously.
‘No, not to stay. It’s just… I want to give you something. You know, to say thank you.’
‘You don’t need to do that,’ Monique said.
‘We do, trust us,’ Luna cut in. ‘You saved Tia’s life.’
‘I know. But it was the right thing to do,’ Monique said. ‘Those bastards had it coming, believe me.’
‘Please,’ Tia said, looking up at Monique with puppy dog eyes.
‘Ok then. But I’ll have to leave as soon as I get the present.’
‘Don’t you want t’ meet the King?’ Luna said. ‘He’s a badass too. The two of you would get on just fine, like.’
‘No,’ Monique said. ‘I don’t want to take up his time.’
They got out of the car.
Armed Grims with bayonets stood on the inner perimeter, guarding a small gap in the high walls.
They nodded in recognition when they saw Tia and Davey.
‘This is our guest, but she isn’t staying,’ Tia said.
The guards nodded, waved them in, then resumed their watch of the landscape.
They led Monique through the Freelands towards its centre, where the warehouses were.
Davey was still disgusted by what this sector represented, but he had come to see it as a necessary evil.
‘You guys can go party,’ Tia said. ‘I’ll hook Mon up.’
Davey debated for a second, then took the hint.
This was clearly a private moment for Tia.
He didn’t want to be cramping her style.
‘Let’s get some fucking steam in our lungs, lad,’ Luna grinned, slinging an arm around his shoulders and hugging him in so tight that his bones creaked. ‘Lord knows, we’ve fuckin earned it.’
Tia led Monique through the twisting paths of the Freelands until they came to the wrought iron fences at its heart.
‘What is this place?’ Monique said, picking up on the macabre vibe that was the total opposite of the parties that raged on the surrounding areas of the tenement.
‘This is the farm. Where our food is produced.’
Tia nodded to the guard, telling him that Monique was a new worker being brought in to help.
He swallowed it hook, line and sinker and let them into the highly restricted area that Davey had found so sickening.
Tia glossed over most of the place.
It seemed Monique either already knew or didn’t want to know what was going on.
That was fine with Tia.
She didn’t really want to inflict the scenes inside the warehouses on an unsuspecting victim, especially one who had shown her such kindnesses.
They reached the last factory.
A couple of guards came to check what they were doing.
When they saw it was Tia, they backed off, taking her explanation as gospel.
Tia carefully pulled open the door of the last warehouse, which held the piles of hair, clothes and possessions.
She beckoned Monique inside.
As the warehouse door clicked shut behind them, Monique found herself in a huge storage room.
She gasped as she realised she was looking at a mountain of human hair.
‘It’s best not to think about what happens around here,’ Tia said, an awkward smile on her face.
Monique nodded in agreement.
The place was already making her belly churn.
Tia led her through the room with vast piles of hair and into another room which contained similarly colossal mounds of clothing.
‘You can have anything you want from in here,’ she said, pointing to the mound of women’s clothing which scraped the roof of the warehouse.
Monique looked around, eyes wide at the sheer scale of the slaughter.
‘Or there’s more in the next few rooms,’ Tia said.
She showed her through into the room with the mountain of discarded I-pads and laptops and mobile phones.
‘You can take your pick from here too,’ she said. ‘I want you to get something really nice as a thank you.’
‘Any guns in here?’ Monique said.
Tia shook her head. ‘I’m afraid not. We need the guns to protect Daddy.’
Monique nodded. That did make sense.
Not much sense in arming relative strangers.
‘Or there’s another room similar to this,’ Tia said.
‘Show me. Please,’ Monique said.
Her head was spinning at the scenes before her disbelieving eyes.
A couple of acres at least of handbags and jewellery, carelessly thrown together onto mountainous piles.
Tia showed her the other room then Monique asked to go back to where all the I-pads had been stored.
Her eyes scanned the room, then her stomach lurched.
Her heart sank.
‘Could you leave me alone in here a moment, to have a look at what there is?’ Monique said.
‘Of course. I understand there’s a lot to look through.’
Monique nodded, but it seemed she wasn’t really listening.
It felt like the world had just been pulled out from beneath her.
Halfway up one of the last pile of mobile phones, she had seen the head of Benny, her daughter’s teddy bear.
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