Cayo Elina 5
‘Famous last words.’Elina thought, remembering Mary’s words from that morning. It was just after dark and she was back at the outpost. ‘I underestimated them.’
She and Gus were accompanied by two other members of the council. All of them were staring at the body of Mary, which was pinned to a tree with a fishing spear. Elina had discovered the body herself when she came to take her shift on the watch. Mary was only about ten yards from the bunker, her legs were splayed, her feet blue in death. Blood had dribbled down the spear to form a dried puddle in the ground between Mary’s legs.
Jack Horner, one of the two council members present, said, “Looks like the zombie you let get away has killed the first one of us.”
Gus looked at Elina across the splayed feet and shook his head the barest of a centimeter. Elina agreed, but neither spoke against Jack’s theory. Fortunately Roslyn Raymo was there to punch holes in Jack’s words, “That’s pure bullshit, Jack, and you know it.”
“What do you mean? It’s a coincidence that a zombie lands on the key and Mary ends up dead? I’m the first one to admit she is one tough lady, but if even Elina couldn’t track the guy down, then Mary didn’t have a chance.”
“Exactly. She was one tough lady. Where’s the fight Jack? Where’s the scuffle in the sand? You think this guy just walked up to her, said, ‘Hey would you let me borrow your spear and lean up against this tree for me?’ No fucking way. This was done by someone she knows. Other than the spear wound there aren’t any signs that she was fighting anyone.”
Jack made a derogatory noise and made a shooing gesture with his hands, “You watched too much television. Who made you a crime scene investigator? The zed could have surprised her and skewered her before she had a chance at defending herself.”
At this moment Ramon Lopez and three of his stoolies came running up to the tree. Elina noted that they rushed to the body, trampling any tracks that may have been left by the killer or killers.
“Oh, Mary!” Ramon said, “See? This is why we should double up on the guards.” This last was said to the other council members present.
Elina shook her head, which caught Ramon’s attention, “You don’t think so? Maybe with two people you could have stopped her from dying. If there would have been a partner with you they could have helped you kill the zombies this morning!”
“I had a partner with me.” Too late Elina realized she had slipped up. Gus winced.
“What? Who was with you?” Ramon demanded.
Elina remained quiet for a moment, giving him time to add, “What are you hiding, Elina?”
With a sigh Elina said, “Gus came out to investigate when I signaled him this morning. He was here when they made it to shore.”
“You left your post? You were at the monitoring station. You were supposed to be there in case other people landed somewhere else on the island.” Ramon was feigning anger, everyone there could tell he was not in a rage, but barely suppressing his joy at having something legitimate to complain about Gus.
“I had a vision…”
“A vision? Don’t make me laugh! How often have those come true? We don’t need an old woman’s visions, we need men who will stay at their posts and send help, like they are supposed to.”
“If I sent help they would have died. I saw it Lopez.” Answered Gus.
“No way to prove that. But I can prove you abandoned your post. I lay this death at your feet Gus.” Ramon said.
“You might as well lay it at mine. I didn’t finish off the zombies.” Elina said. And oddly she knew that was true. The zombie on the loose was the excuse one of the island’s factions had needed to make a move against Elina and her supporters.
Ramon shook his head, “No, the fault is his. You’re just a wo…worker. You can’t be expected to stop ever zombie that makes it to the island. But if he had followed protocol, Mary would still be alive.”
Elina fumed, certain Ramon had been about to say ‘woman’, not ‘worker’.
Ramon continued, talking more to his supporter than Elina, “We have to have an accounting for this. I’m afraid this isn’t the first time Gustavo has not followed the rules.”
“What are you suggesting?” asked Jack before Elina could.
“There should be punishment for messing up. A woman was killed Jack. we can’t turn our backs on that.”
“Not by Gus.” Elina said, barely suppressing the anger in her voice.
“You are a member of the council, for now. We will hear what you have to say about this too, Elina.” Ramon said.
“For now?” Elina yelled, “What do you mean, ‘for now’?”
Ramon laughed, a deprecatory sort of sound and gestured with his hands, as if to say, ‘see this is what women do’. “I meant nothing by it Elina, only that you are a council member now.”
Gus stepped sideways in front of Elina and looked her in the eyes, “Will you represent me in front of the council, Elina?”
The fury building in her smoldered, she recognized what Gus had done, stopping her from attacking Ramon outright. With a curt nod she looked over his shoulder at a smirking Ramon, while staring into that man’s eyes, she answered Gus, “Yes.”
“Good.” Ramon said, “Now we need to get poor Maria buried. I will go back to the village and tell them what has happened.”
After Ramon left most of the others walked away as well, leaving only Jack, Gus and Elina standing over Maria’s body.
“He killed her.” Elina said.
“What?” asked Jack, “I know you and he don’t see eye to eye, but to accuse him of murder…”
“I am accusing no one. He did it. I can see it. Who did he hate only a little less than Gus? Maria. I’ve heard the words he used about her, ‘dike’ is about the friendliest. He is consolidating his power, using this zombie to get rid of two rivals, maybe more.”
“Now Elina, you can’t speculate on something like that without proof…it will turn people against you.”
“I am not, Jack. I am telling you, so in the days to come you can think over the part you played in what happens.”
“I haven’t played any part…”
“Jack, doing nothing is also something. That is where so many of the council are not like me. I do things, I say what I mean and follow through on what I say. I don’t see which way the wind is blowing and let it carry me along.”
Jack’s face hardened, “There is no need to talk like that and I am not going to stand here and listen to it.” Turning away from them he stopped back to camp.
“Is that your version of diplomacy?” Gus asked when they were alone.
“Yes, ‘Elina Diplomacy’, why did you stop me from killing him?”
“Still mad at me?”
Elina signed and slumped to rest on the nearby wall of the outpost. She shook her head and deflated into herself.
“How are you feeling? Has anything changed?”
“No. No seizures or freezing that I can recall. I can see better, how did it work for you?”
“I thought I would die. When I was infected I went unconscious and they couldn’t wake me for two days.”
“Two days! How did you live that long without being eaten?”
“I was on the ship Elina.”
“On a ship? What ship?”
“A cruise ship. I’d been picked up by the military north of Miami. Our bad luck was that we ran into plenty of zombies with guns. I ended up shot, one of the men, a big fellow by the name of Bill, he picked me up and carried me. I was shot again, went through my body into his. Didn’t slow him down a bit. Then I went unconscious. We figured out what happened later. He apologized. For saving my life, he apologized to me. I didn’t understand it then. I think I get it now.”
“Tell me, so I know.”
“Bill had tried before to infect some others. Two of them died real deaths. I was the fourth person he had infected and only the second to survive.”
“Shouldn’t you be a ‘Billson’?”
Gus shook his head, “No, he was very clear on that. He said there would be Max sons and daughters, but he got infected by his friend Max. The only one infected by Max, as far as he knew.”
“Where did Max go?”
“He left. Bill wasn’t sure. I think he thought Max was dead, but didn’t want to tell me. Or just didn’t want to say it, he wouldn’t talk about Max with me. He left me there a day after I came around.”
“Where did he go?”
“Said he still had family alive. Said he was from Iowa and he was going back. He could have been telling the truth, he spoke like a corn fed country boy.” Gus shrugged his shoulders, “They put me off the ship when they docked it in the Bahamas. Those cruise ships suck down fuel like you wouldn’t believe. At first they thought they would use it as a floating base, just sail it around and loot the dead and help the living. But it was already almost full by the time I left and just keeping the people in food, let alone getting fuel for the ship, was going to be hard.”
“Where’d you go after that?”
“I hitched a ride with some Cubans and they dropped me off up the coast from Miami.”
Elina laughed, but Gus remained silent until she said, “Really?”
“They were looking to desert the Castro regime. They thought I might be able to give them directions when we landed. Turns out I am not that good at coastal directions. I helped them get a couple cars running and they left me with a gun and a Cuban military pack full of looted food. I headed towards Miami, they went north.”
“The Maxsons, they were famous in Miami, they turned the tide on the fight there, made Miami Beach a fortress.”
Gus nodded, “I do get around.”
“It was only you?”
“I had other helpers, but I never ran into another person truly infected like I was. I should have asked Bill who the other Maxson was, I got the impression the guy was a local.”
“So you secured Miami Beach?”
“I formed, for lack of a better word, a ‘gang’. I couldn’t have done it alone. With them I was able to see enough ahead to make a difference. The gang became the militia, the militia was drafted into the Navy by Perry on one of his trips in and they’ve kept the peace, mostly, ever since.”
“So Perry has known who you are all this time?”
“Oh no, that wouldn’t have worked out. I never met him, I always sent a go between. Half the time the meetings were being ambushed by the Cubans or the zombies. It was much too dangerous for me to go.”
Elina shook her head again, “I can’t see you running from a fight.”
“I wasn’t not really. But I had left some of Perry’s Marines high and dry after seeing they would walk into an ambush and that if me or any of my team went with them they would all be killed. I believe he holds a grudge about that, seems to feel I let twenty of his men get killed when I could have bailed them out.”
“But you knew you couldn’t.”
“I knew if I went other things would be lost. I could have saved his men, if I had pulled everyone together, but then the rest of the lines would have fallen apart. I would have won the battle and lost the war. So I sent them a runner, told them to back off. They didn’t listen and they died. Along with a few of my people who still lacked belief in my abilities.”
Elina thought about the incident Gus had just described, then about what was coming up here regarding Maria’s death. “It seems like you have a way of being involved in the deaths of a lot of people.”
“Nothing ever changes, Elina.”