It was the body of a Home Guard ranger, still in uniform. Hanging by a rope from one of the sign's wooden posts.
And there was a bullet hole in his head. I didn't recognize the face. Around his neck hung a cardboard sign that read: Sicko Lover.
The Home Guard must have started executing its own members who were caught sleeping with positives. This was obviously a warning from the higher command that if any of the rangers were tempted to sleep with anyone suspected of being infected, the punishment would be swift and harsh.
No wonder Jason didn't show up last night. He was a sergeant, but he still had to answer to a higher chain of command. There was obviously a crackdown on wayward rangers, and he'd been afraid of getting caught and ending up hanging by the road with a hole in his head.
It was going to be even harder than I'd thought to get him to meet me now.
Still, I wasn't about to give up.
I actually found Jason's home number listed in the phone book. The only problem was that I didn't have my wallet, and I didn't have any change to place a call.
The cash register inside the mini-mart was locked. I looked around behind the counter for the key, but I couldn't find one.
I took another look around the gas station to make sure I was alone. Then I slid the register off the counter. It slammed down onto the floor. I could hear change inside jingling around, but the drawer didn't budge.
I lifted the register, then I heaved it up above my head. I did my best to slam it hard against the floor. It crashed down, spun over, and rolled against a bank of glass-windowed refrigerators.
Some of the register's keys had broken off and scattered across the floor, and the receipt ribbon had spooled down the isle, but still the drawer stayed locked.
It was only then that I noticed a cardboard donation board for Huntington's disease patients on the counter. It was the kind with little quarter-sized slots for people to leave their change in. Most of the slots were empty, but people had stuffed a total of eight quarters into the cardboard pockets.
Oh. . . I felt stupid. Why hadn't I noticed that before trying to destroy a cash register?
With only passing guilt, I plucked each of the quarters from the donation board. I promised myself that if I ever made it out of this alive, I'd donate at least a couple of dollars to Huntington's research.
Now I had to change to use the payphone, but I had to take care of something else first.
I went straight into the men's bathroom. I found exactly what I was looking for: a wall-mounted vending machine selling rubbers. . .
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