Chapter Five Part Four - Dinner

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By the time they reached the edge of the town it was almost midnight. Jackie had never been so pleased to see signs of civilisation by way of a few candles flickering in the odd window here and there.

Both women stopped stock still as they heard the sound of several weapons being cocked and one or two muttered voices preceding a shout of, “stop right there. What business do you have in the People's Republic of Ashurst?”

Jackie went to speak but Bates put out her arm and instead, it was she who spoke.

“There was an accident,” she said, calmly. “My friend has been hurt and we're in need of medical supplies. Her wound needs cleaning and dressing.”

A few more muttered voices, though the tone was a little different this time. Still, no words could be deciphered.

“If you can take us to the hospital, we'll be out of your hair as quick as you like,” she said. “We don't want any trouble.”

Jackie tried and failed to see how many of them there were, but it was simply too dark. All she could tell for sure was that there were a few of them, all standing upon a barricade made of cars turned upon their sides.

“You've got another thing coming.” A male voice stood out above all the rest, tinged with an arrogance and no shortage of malice. “Medical supplies are for the People of the Republic. We don't take in strays.”

“OK, OK,” said Jackie, butting in before Bates could say anything else. “That's fine, we'll be on our way. You'll never see us again.”

They turned as if to leave but another voice stopped them, female this time.

“You'll do no such thing,” she said. She sounded much older than both Jackie and Bates and even though it shouldn't have done so that did surprise them, that someone of the older generation had managed to survive so long. “If you need medical attention, the people of the People's Republic of Ashurst are more than willing to accommodate you.”

“Thank you,” said Jackie gratefully, as she and Bates turned back towards the barricade.

“No need to thank me, girl,” the woman replied, approaching so that she could appraise the girls with greater ease. “That is a nasty wound, looks like you had a quick meeting with a car windscreen.”

“You could say that,” Jackie replied, smiling and nodding. “Seriously though, we'll be out of your hair as soon as we're good to go.”

“Nonsense,” the woman scoffed. “You'll stay for a bite to eat, at least.”

***

It was a little over an hour later and by the light of an oil lantern, Bates was putting the finishing touches to stitching the wound upon Jackie's forehead. Considering the current state of the world, the hospital was pretty well kitted out. Obviously there were no big machines, for example dialysis or an MRI would have been impossible, but for day to day use, it was perfect.

“How're you feeling?”

“A little light-headed, but fine otherwise,” replied Jackie. “Thank you.”

“Good, because something's not right here.” Bates put her finger to her lips as she spoke, so as to let Jackie know that she shouldn't question that notion, at least not out loud. “I don't know what it is, but be ready to run.”

“Is that rifle the only weapon we have?”

“No,” Bates replied, removing the pistol from the back of her belt and pressing it into Jackie's hand. “I'm surprised they let me keep either.”

“Maybe there's nothing to worry about.”

“Maybe, I certainly hope so. But I've got a feeling.”

“You get those feelings often?”

“Yeah...”

“Are they ever wrong?”

“No,” said Bates, quietly. “They're not.”

Jackie glanced over Bates' shoulder and then spoke quickly.

“She's coming. If you're right, we'll find out soon enough.”

The elderly woman entered in the company of two strapping blokes. Each man was massive and wore tight, fitted shirts that showed the entire world exactly how big they were.

“Is everything OK in here?” she asked, sweetly and politely.

“Of course, we're almost done,” Bates replied, forcing a smile.

“Good, good,” said the woman, her eyes flitting from one man to the other in the time that it takes to blink. “I imagine you're both incredibly hungry.”

“Yeah, didn't you say something about getting a bite to eat?”

“Yes,” she replied, smiling a toothy grin. “Funny you should mention that.”

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