After the Apocalypse
Chapter 45: The Flock

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

"I'm sorry to bother you Deacon Whateley, but I have some disturbing news."

"Just a moment". Whateley had never been a light sleeper and lately, with all the turmoil in the world and the death of his only son, he spent his days in feverish activity, and his nights in a deep, usually dreamless, sleep. He was glad of that, for the few dreams he'd had since his son died were dark and frightening. He knew that God was speaking to him through his dreams, and while he believed it was his holy duty to interpret those visions, the images were still burned into his eyes, even when he woke. He pulled on his robe and stumbled through the darkness to the double doors.

"Who is it?" he asked, suddenly realizing he hadn't quite placed the voice.

"It's me, Charlie Landers," came the answer.

The Deacon was even more disturbed by that. Landers was one of his shepherds and he had some military training. Whateley was a pretty shrewd judge of men, and he didn't think Landers would disturb him if it wasn't important. He opened the door and waved the younger man into his office. Landers entered, moved to a chair opposite the Deacon's desk, and then waited until the Deacon sat before he did. None of this was wasted on Whateley, who enjoyed receiving the respect and adulation of his flock.

"What is it, Mr. Landers?"

"Well, Deacon Whateley, it's like this. Me and Jim Peters were on our way to the Meijer's to see if it was worth scavenging when we saw something strange. We weren't sure what to make of it, so we hid and watched."

"And what did you see?" asked Whateley, allowing just a hint of impatience to enter his tone.

"Well we seen four guys with two trucks and a trailer. They were armed with shotguns and pistols and they wore bulletproof vests and some kind of radios. They were stocking up from the Meijer's. They took a whole bunch of food, some first aid stuff, and other things you might expect. Then they went back in the store and grabbed a bunch of kids' toys, a pile of sheets and blankets, about thirty pairs of boots and enough clothing for a small army in all different sizes."

"I see, then what happened?"

"Well, as they were packing up, some dogs came after 'em, probably smelled the meat in the back of the truck."

Whateley nodded. This story was interesting. The food made sense, since any survivors would need to have food, but the rest of it was confusing. Unless they were idiots, they had to realize there was no chance of selling anything any time soon. More likely, they were transients of some kind, people either staying at a local hotel, or trying to caravan their way through the area. The latter seemed more likely; he thought a lot of people were probably going to head west then south in hopes of reaching a warmer climate; it was, in fact, the same plan he had for his flock.

"Well, anyhow," continued Landers, "the two that were outside wound up killing two of the dogs, but they kept the third one. Then this other guy came out and there was an argument about following some kind of code. I'm not sure, but I think they might have been the ones who killed Nick."

Whateley thought on that. If they were indeed the same ones who had killed his son, then they must be living in the area. He wasn't sure what this code could be and it troubled him. There weren't a whole lot of people in the world who followed any sort of code anymore. Absently, he thanked Landers for his report, then poured himself a cup of coffee from a pot he kept on his desk. It was cold, but it helped him to think. As he drank, he noticed that the cup was from the local Veterans Administration. That's when it struck him. The code probably referred to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Those guys were probably soldiers of some sort. Perhaps they were from Selfridge; it was far, but not out of the question. Most of the troops there would have been reservists. Perhaps they were trying to get home and were grabbing things as they went.

That didn't make sense though; once they got home, their families, if they had survived, would have plenty of clothes and blankets already. Shotguns also didn't seem like a very likely military issue weapon. More likely, these guys were some kind of local militia. He'd known a few militia members lived in the area, but he'd never imagined any of them would be capable of killing his son Nick. It didn't make sense, but a lot of things didn't at the moment. He finally decided to sleep on it, hoping things would make more sense in the morning.

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