Chapter Nine Part Three - Messing About on the River

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Simon guided the river cruiser inexpertly to the mooring. There were, he estimated, over one hundred similarly small vessels moored, all in various states of repair but all apparently seaworthy.

The river itself was wide at this point and due to the fact that it was a tidal river, there was a pretty strong current heading down stream, back the way they had come.

Annalise leapt onto the wooden planks of the pontoon, as did Harry, and both quickly pulled the cruiser in tightly before tying off around a couple of the taller wooden posts.

“Go, quickly,” Simon urged. “We’re too exposed here for my liking. Get whatever you can carry and be back as soon as you can.”

“I’ll lend a hand,” said Verity as she hopped to the dock, thankful to have something more solid than fibreglass beneath her feet, if only for a short period of time.

“Don’t worry about the yard, we haven’t the time,” Simon continued.

“He’s right,” said Annalise to all, though mostly her words were directed at Harry and Verity, those on the dock with her. “Fuel, food, water, medical supplies; anything else we can do without and with luck, we might not have to run all the way up to Beaulieu.”

“Yeah, that’d be nice,” said Simon with a chuckle, a rifle in hand as he nodded to Karen and Johnny. “We’ve got you guys covered.”

He watched as the three raiders ran off in different directions before turning his attention to those left on the boat.

“I’ll keep my eyes on the land,” he said. “You watch upstream, Karen, and Johnny, you keep your eyes open the way we came. The first sign of movement, I want to hear about it.”

Over the course of the next ten minutes or so, various shouts from Annalise, Verity and Harry could be heard, carried the short distance from their locations to Simon’s ears by the cool, gentle breeze that blew west to east across the river.

“Tea! Fuel, too.”

“Paraffin and cigarettes, plus some baked beans!”

“Heinz?”

“Yeah. They’re proper!”

It was not long at all before there was more canned food, canisters of fuel, not to mention countless other items that would most definitely come in rather handy, piled on the dock beside the boat. Annalise and Karen were in the process of passing the gear to Simon, when Harry came running, panting, his feet pounding upon the wooden planks.

Zeds!” he yelled as he approached. He had been scouring the boats closest to the boat yard and because he was doing so quickly, had not been too careful about the amount of noise he had been making.

Immediately, Simon stopped what he was doing and looked towards the boat yard. Sure enough there were several Zeds scrambling to get through the chain-link fence that ran close to the water’s edge.

“How many?” Annalise asked, cricking her neck as she cracked her knuckles.

“Eight,” Simon replied. “No, ten… You can bet your arse there’s more on the way though.”

“Aye,” said Annalise, quietly through gritted teeth. “Where one Zed goes, the rest will follow.”

“Ain’t just Zeds! There’s someone there, running!”

“Simon, with me,” said Annalise, calmly. “The rest of you get all of this crap onto the boat as quickly as you can, then cast off.”

“But…”

“Don’t worry about us, Verity,” she said, interrupting the woman more sharply than she had intended. “We’ll be fine and besides, we can both swim.”

With that said, she and Simon sprinted across the docks, leaping ropes and strewn gear in their haste to reach whoever was running for their life from the herd of Zeds.

***

A slightly confused look appeared on Johnny’s face and he stood up straight, cocking his head slightly in an attempt to hear…

“Engines,” he said. “Definitely engines. We need to get loaded quickly!”

There was not much left to get on board and what there was, Harry flung towards Johnny who just about managed to catch the sack before it hit the deck. He did not know what was inside but he highly doubted it was breakable. It was heavy though, and a hole in the deck was not what anyone wanted.

“The ropes, Harry,” Helen said as she leapt to the dock, untying one rope whilst the young man untied the other. Both pushed as their feet left the planks, hoisting themselves up onto the cruiser as Verity gunned the engine into life and gave it as much throttle as she dared. They were just in time, too, for at that very moment three inflatable dinghies rounded the bend in the river behind them, bouncing across the water with ease.

“Two men in each,” said Johnny, glancing back towards them. “I can’t tell anything else… Wait, they’ve got weapons.”

“So have we,” Helen said. “Who’s to say they’re hostile?”

“And who’s to say they’re not?” Verity shouted from the helm. “We can’t take the risk, ‘Lise and Simon will understand.” With that she opened the cruiser right up, taking her quickly up to full speed.

“They’ve seen us, but they’re leaving us be.”

“They’re heading for the boat yard, I think.”

“We’re too far away already,” said Verity through gritted teeth. “If they’re hostile there’s nothing we can do about it now. All we can do is to check for ‘Lise and Simon on our way back down.”

“We’re just leaving them?” asked Helen, aghast.

“Yes,” Verity replied. “It’s the right thing to do. We need water and that’s exactly what we’re going to get; water.”

***

Annalise ducked easily beneath the Zed’s clumsy lunge, its outstretched arm easy prey for the sharpness of her blade. She hacked it off in one swift, gentle movement and then brought it back around, taking the zombie’s head off at its neck.

"Verity’s taken them upstream,” Simon yelled, using the butt of his rifle to crush the skull of a Zed he had just knocked to the ground.

"It makes sense,” she replied, using her elbow to knock a Zed backwards and to optimum range to meet her cold, hard steel. “They should head upstream and get what we came for, rather than hang around waiting. Who knows how long it’s going to take for us to get rid of all these biting bastards?”

“Aye, you’re right,” he replied, firing a rifle shot at close range through the head of one Zed and into the skull of the one ambling next to it. “So are we gonna’ talk about what happened last night in The Trusty Servant?”

“We had sex, Simon, and it was pretty good. Judging by the perpetual smile Joan had on her face until we reached the hotel I wager she thought the same thing,” she said, stomping her foot down upon the still attached head of a fallen Zed. “It wasn't my first time nor will it be my last, I hope, so what more is there to talk about?”

“Nothing, clearly.”

“Right, and certainly not here. I can’t caress your ego whilst simultaneously killing Zeds. I’m sorry but I’m simply not that good at multi-tasking.”

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