Chapter 8

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Wes rapped his knuckles against the exterior door of Walker House. Eva stood to his right, her left arm held gently by his right hand. Quite a difference in grip from Mitchell. The big oaf waited on the walkway, halfway between Walker House and Main House, where Grant had been, his weapon needlessly at eye level, as though there was an active threat. Eva understood being prepared at all times, but it was pretty obvious no imminent threat existed. For Mitchell to grasp the rifle in such a manner – as though he were part of a special ops team infiltrating an enemy installation – made him appear uneasy, perhaps trigger-happy. Eva could sense that he was eager as hell to shoot something. Or someone.

Walker House was beautiful. Whoever had built this shelter – and each of the shelters, for that matter - had dumped tons of cash into them. They seemed to have wanted the best in life, even while hunkered down in a bunker, waiting out Armageddon; but this one was the nicest. The exterior door had been fitted with stained glass set within the frame. The first floor living room looked like a model home, with hardwood floors, posh furniture, and a state-of-the-art entertainment center.

Laird, Kay's husband, answered the door. To Eva, he seemed to exhibit an air of superiority, like he was better than everyone. He had probably owned a home three times the size of the bunker before it all went bad and felt like he deserved more, even in the current state of things.

"Wes."

"Hi, Laird."

Laird's eyes drifted over to Eva. "Eva," he muttered condescendingly.

Eva nodded ever so slightly and stepped past him into the bunker. She had to squeeze by as he refused to step aside. Judging by his toned arms and sculpted shoulders, it was evident that he must've been a work-out fiend. Maybe still was. Eva imagined him admiring himself while he flexed in front of his bathroom mirror.

"Prick," said Eva, under her breath.

"Excuse me?" said Laird.

"You're excused," said Eva.

She heard Wes change the subject by asking Laird if he was still able to work out in the bunker. She would thank him later.

The living room had been painted a warm tone of gray with white trim. Framed pieces of black and white art adorned the circular wall. The Walkers' two children – Lance and Audrey – were reading at the far side of the room. They stared disapprovingly as Eva entered.

Brats.

Lacy was sitting near the pretend window. She had her cell phone with her, as usual. Eva thought the inoperable device made her seem aloof at times, and she worried it might give Grant and Isaac more cause to rehabilitate her.

Isaac was Community's elder, as he was called. He was the only person who Grant reported to. Isaac had final word on all matters.

Gus, lying by Lacy's side, raised his head and began to wag as Eva neared. He trotted over to her.

"Hey, boy. Hey, Gus." Eva stroked the soft fur on the dog's head.

Lacy didn't turn but called from her seat. "Hello, Eva."

Eva went to the window and leaned against the sill, her back to the digitally-printed twilight. Gus followed. "What's new?"

Lacy smiled. "Nothing here...same old thing. I just sit around all day." She looked behind her and then toward the all-season room. She lowered her voice. "Wish they'd trust me enough to let me help out once in a while. But you know how they are..."

"I know, alright. Just came from Main House."

"Oh, boy! Bet that was a real treat. Did Grant give you a stern talking to?"

Gus plopped his haunch down next to Eva's feet and eased himself to the floor with a long sigh. "Sure did. Didn't change my mind though."

"He loves disciplining people. I think he enjoys having something to hold against someone...or at least against you. And what better than crossing the perimeter. He's probably hoping you'll do it again, so he can ceremoniously cast you out."

Eva stared blankly at the Persian carpet beneath her feet. Her eyes traced the lines in the intricate patterns. "He won't have anything to hold against me for long."

Laird strolled into the family room from the stairwell. Even his gait somehow suggested that he held himself above all others. It was a pompous gate. Kay entered from the kitchen and the two engaged in a whispered conversation with occasional glances toward Eva.

Leaning closer, Lacy's voice dropped to a near-whisper. "How far did you get?"

"Less than a quarter mile."

"I don't understand. What is it you're doing out there? Why do you keep coming back?"

Eva had previously revealed to Lacy her intention to flee Community once the time was right. Ordinarily Eva made it a habit to trust no one, but Lacy had made it clear that she was leaving as well – and that when Eva was ready, she would go with her.

"I'm not finished here yet."

The Walkers finished consulting. Laird moved into another room. Kay approached and handed Lacy a steaming cup of tea on a saucer. "There you go, Lacy. Powdered cream and two sugars. Just how you like it."

Lacy accepted the saucer. "Yes, it is. Thank you, Kay.

Then, almost as an after-thought, and likely a deliberate tactic of attempting to appear unconcerned, Kay turned to Eva. "Hello, Eva. It's nice to have you back. Are you hungry?"

"Thanks, Kay. And no, I'm fine." Eva had stolen some protein bars before leaving the perimeter but was still a little hungry. She'd rather go without however, than to please Kay's motherly sense of pride.

"Eva..." Kay cocked her head. Eva felt like knocking that haughty body language straight out of her. "I realize that you are very independent, but it is unwise to forego eating."

"I've already eaten," snapped Eva.

"Eva, I make a record of distributed rations at every meal. I know that you haven't eaten anything yet today."

Not too good at counting the protein bar supply, huh?

Lacy quietly sipped her tea, her eyes pinned on Eva, awaiting her response. This was better drama than a primetime soap opera.

"I hunted and ate my kill...outside the perimeter," said Eva, matter-of-factly, while she stroked Gus. The dog flopped onto his side.

Kay stared at Eva, as if to gauge the truthfulness of her answer. After a moment, she closed her eyes in frustration. Hunting was a major violation. Nothing was to be eaten outside of the perimeter. Not fruit or any vegetable discovered and especially not game that hadn't been properly inspected. "Eva, I hope that isn't true. You do realize that such an action would be in violation of Community's rules...."

"Yes, Kay. I do," replied Eva, disdain plainly evident in her tone.

Kay's eyes attempted to conceal what Eva recognized as a freshly stoked fire. Behind her cool blue orbs, her brain was broiling. "Reverend Grant will have to be notified!" She spun on her heels and practically stomped out of the room. When she reached the all-season room, she and Laird conversed.

"I assume that was BS?" asked Lacy.

"Sure was," said Eva.

"Well, that may have just earned you a day in quarantine."

Eva smirked. "Perfect."


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