Chapter Four Part Two - Joan

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The vehicle juddered to a stuttering halt and Annalise slammed her fists to the steering wheel in frustration. She had lost track of how long she had been driving and as the Range Rover’s digital clock appeared to be stuck on 01:57, she had no way of knowing.

She cursed herself though for allowing the vehicle to run out of fuel. Of all the bloody stupid things to do. She was alone, stranded, and top of all of that she had absolutely no idea whereabouts she was.

The sea was to her right, some yards distant beyond what looked like a salt-water marsh. She suspected that at high tide, the water would be lapping up and over the road. In the middle distance she could see there were a couple of boats, house boats perhaps, bobbing on the ebbing tide.

Closer to her position there were a couple of cars, abandoned at the road side.

She clambered from the vehicle, grabbing her sword from the back seat as she did so. Just because there were no Zeds that she could see did not mean that there were none at all and besides, Annalise knew all too well that the walking dead were not the only things one had to fear. It had been proven to her on several occasions that people were, to be quite frank, bastards.

Treading carefully so as to make as little noise as possible, she made her way towards the nearest of the parked cars. A glance through the window told her that someone had died inside but that it had not happened particularly recently. The blood stains were fading into the upholstery.

She heard a thud and glanced to her right to see that an arrow was embedded in the white rear panel.

An archer? That was definitely the kind of long range arsenal that she could do with. Despite her love of hacking Zeds at close quarters, such a thing did get a little hairy on occasion.

Annalise remained completely stationary, awaiting an instruction of some kind. She knew one would come as that is exactly what she would have done, unless whomsoever she had fired a warning shot at made any kind of movement, in which case she would probably have put one straight in the spine.

“Lower your blade.” Annalise obeyed instantly, and slowly lowered herself to the ground and placed her sword there. She was a little surprised to discover that her attacker was female, but that was really the least of her concerns.

“Good, now turn around slowly.”

Again, Annalise obeyed the command without hesitation. When she locked eyes with her would-be attacker, the surprise at hearing a female voice was instantly replaced with the discovery that she was, in fact, an incredibly young female. The crossbow she held, already loaded with another bolt, was as steady and true as anything Annalise had ever seen.

“What are you doing here?”

“I was driving,” Annalise replied. “I ran out of fuel.”

“Is that what you're doing looking into my car?” the girl asked. “You think you can take my fuel?”

“Your car?” asked Annalise, calmly. “I'm sorry, I didn't realise that anyone owned it any more, though clearly someone used to...”

“It is my car,” said the girl. “Ever since my parents died, it's my car!”

“All right, all right.” Annalise attempted to remain calm but the girl was shaking a little and she really did not fancy being on the receiving end of a crossbow bolt fired in distress.

At that point it dawned on her exactly what the girl meant.

“You killed your parents, didn't you?”

“Yeah...” the girl replied with a gentle nod, tears visible in the corners of her eyes. “I tried to, but only after they tried to kill me.”

“They turned?” The girl nodded.

“That's when I learned how to kill properly. The head.”

Tears were streaming down her face now, but she did not look as though she was crying.

“It's always got to be the head, you have to destroy the brain.”

As the girl mumbled, still with the crossbow aimed at Annalise, she cast her mind back to her own family, and how had she known then what she knew now she could have killed them; she would have killed them. But as far as she knew, her parents and siblings were still out there somewhere, roaming the world in search of their next meal.

She didn't realise it but for the minute prior she had been scratching with some force at her left arm.

“Are you OK?” the girl asked, glancing at Annalise's arm.

She looked too, and saw that she had opened up several old, self-inflicted wounds.

“Yeah, I am,” she replied, shaking herself. “I just... What you said about killing your parents... It brought back some painful memories.”

“Sorry.” The girl lowered the weapon and Annalise felt able to breathe normally once again. “I didn't mean it.”

“You did what you had to do,” she said, a trickle of sweat dripping from her forehead. “I wish I had been able to, my parents would have been better off.”

The girl simply shrugged.

“So this is your car, yeah? You don't live in it?”

“No, silly,” the girl replied with a chuckle, a gorgeous smile warming her young face. “I live in those boats?”

“Isn't that dangerous? I mean, what about the pirates. I know it's safe enough when the tide's low, but what about when it's not?”

The girl practically burst out laughing and Annalise simply smiled, confused.

“Pirates?” she said once she had regained her composure somewhat. “There are no pirates around Britain! It's too cold out on the sea.”

“You know they do exist though?”

“Of course I do but only around southern France and Italy, places like that. Probably America, too.”

“How can you be sure?”

“I've been living on my boats since I killed my parents right after they turned. Every high tide I go out and fish. If there were any pirates around here, don't you think I'd have been taken by them by now?”

“Well that is a fair point,” said Annalise, nodding. “Hey, listen. My friends and I live in a hotel a few miles away. It's secure and there's real beds, plenty of food. There's a marina with lots of boats just like yours as well.”

Annalise smiled as she noticed the girl's eyes light up upon hearing that piece of information.

“There's plenty of room for you, if you'd like to come back with me. I know you've survived this long but there's definitely safety in numbers.”

“OK,” the girl replied after a few thoughtful moments.

“We'll need fuel though, as I can't leave my Range Rover out here... It's too important.”

“I have plenty of fuel,” said the girl. “I'll go get it and then we can go.”

She turned and made to run off, but Annalise shouted after her.

“I'm Annalise, what's your name?”

“Joan,” she replied over her shoulder, and carried on running back towards her boats.

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