The Watchtower is a serial novel about zombies.
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She had seen that look before.
Her father had sat at the head of the table, dinner dishes cleared away, hands entwined in their mother’s. He had told them he was sorry for the way he’d treated them in the years following the affair. He had promised that from here on out, things would be different. He had asked them for forgiveness.
And none of them had given it to him.
He had sat there, at the head of the table, listening to his three children list reasons why he didn’t deserve it.
And his eyes had held the same look she saw in Miller’s: complete and utter helplessness, with a touch of self-doubt.
But that wasn’t the only time she had seen that look.
She had seen it in her own eyes the day after she had gotten married, and she realized that she didn’t have what it took to be a wife. She had wept at her own reflection, begging a God she wasn’t even sure existed to make her a person worthy of the man who had chosen her.
And she had seen it one other time.
In the eyes of the girl she had killed.
“So tell me a little bit about this boyfriend of yours.”
The traffic had cleared on the highway and they were moving again.
Rosemarie sat in the front row of the school bus they had taken from the makeshift hospital, holding her head. Even though the wound from her attack wasn’t fatal, it had left her with a throbbing headache.
And now Jace wanted to hear about Soren.
“Why do you want to know? Are you going to write about it in the hospital’s gossip column?”
Jace laughed. “No, I just want to know who this guy is we’re traveling all this distance to find.”
Rosemarie looked out the window. The sun was just starting to come up in the sky. It had only been a few hours since she had last talked to Soren, telling him she would be on her way soon. He would be worried about her.
“I don’t know what to talk about.”
Jace wasn’t convinced. “You’re together with this guy and you don’t have anything to say about him? Let’s start with how you met.”
Rosemarie smiled, remembering. “It was about a year ago. He came to work on a service project at the nursing home. He asked me out without even knowing my name.”
“So you like those blunt, direct types.”
“No, actually, I told him off,” Rosemarie said, shaking her head. “I said I couldn’t be with someone who didn’t care enough about the little details.” Rosemarie looked down at her fingers. “So he spent the next two weeks learning every single little detail.”
“And then he asked you out again,” Jace offered.
“Yep.” Rosemarie closed her eyes. She remembered how close they had gotten the first few months. And then it happened, and she was never the same again. Soren had forgiven her, but she couldn’t understand why. How could you forgive someone who does something like that?
“Do you love him?”
Rosemarie looked at Jace. “What are you talking about? Of course I love him.”
Jace turned back to look at her, but didn’t say anything.
“I was just checking to make sure.” Jace returned his focus to the street outside.
Rosemarie tried not to think about Jace’s question, but it was the only thing on her mind now.
Of course I love him, she told herself.
Well, then, if you loved him, why did you do that to him? Why did you hurt him like that?
There it was, that voice that never grew tired. The voice that could shout discouragement, accusations, and remind her of her failures with just one or two sentences.
The voice that sounded an awful lot like her own.
Jamison made the two minute walk to the Main Office without seeing a single soul. Most seemed to understand the gravity of their situation. They wanted to, like Emmy, watch the news and obsess over what was going to happen to them. Others didn’t seem to mind at all, and had gone home to get some rest.
Standing in the Main Office parking lot was Trace, arms in his pockets, stress on his face. He had definitely not gone home for any rest. Jamison waved, and the man practically ran toward him.
“Jamison, thanks for coming.”
“Yeah, Trace. What’s going on?” The phone call he’d received earlier had been more than a little vague.
“The agents working at the blockade are causing trouble,” Trace said, wiping sweat from his forehead.
“What kind of trouble can they cause, Trace? Aren’t they here to help us?”
“That’s just the thing. They won’t let anybody out now, not even to get supplies.” Trace shook his head. “Even though they extended the quarantine, they can’t just keep people in here.”
Jamison sighed. This was getting a little too complicated. The government was supposed to be here to help the. They had set up the quarantine to ensure that the disease didn’t reach their community. They were screening people coming in and going out. Why couldn’t they keep doing that until the quarantine closed?
“Listen, I’ll go talk to them, okay?”
Trace nodded, his eyes blinking rapidly.
Jamison put a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, Trace, are you all right? You don’t look so well.”
“Yes, I’m fine, Jamison.” Trace shook his head. “I’m just a little tired from all of this.”
“Well, why don’t you go home and get some rest? And tell your wife Emmy and I say hello.”
Trace wiped sweat from his face again. “Yeah, I’ll do that. You go talk to those agents.”
Jamison watched his friend make his way over to his car, start it up, and begin the short drive home.
God, let him rest.
“What are you doing here, Father?” Soren asked through tight lips and narrowed eyes.
Lyn watched the exchange with mild interest. She had been through this before, with her father, and she knew how it would end.
“They came to me for help, Steven. I didn’t know—”
“Wait, you’re name is really Steven?” Lincoln laughed. “Did Rosemarie know anything about this?”
Soren wouldn’t look at him. “Not exactly.”
“So she kind of knew that you had run away from your family and had changed your name?”
“Lincoln, calm down,” Toby said, sitting down beside her brother. “Let them square things. We’re not involved in this.”
“I’m sorry, Toby, but we became involved the minute this guy started dating Rosemarie.” Lincoln turned to Soren. “Now, you’re going to answer my question—”
“I am not answering any questions until my father is out of my house.” Soren stood up. “I don’t know why you brought him here, but I don’t want anything to do with him.”
Where have I heard this before?
No wonder Soren and Rosemarie had clicked. Both had a mutual disdain for their fathers. Both had run away from their families. Lyn wouldn’t be surprised if Soren turned out to be a religious fanatic as well.
A religious fanatic that doesn’t want to talk to his own father.
Sounds about right.
“Steven, can we at least talk about it?” Miller asked, taking a step closer. “Your mother and Sean are in the car —”
“You brought them with you?” Soren crossed his arms. “What is wrong with you? Don’t you know that I don’t want to talk to you?”
“Whatever happened in the past is in the past, Steven. Can’t we just bury it all and move forward from there?”
Lyn tried not to say anything. Miller couldn’t expect Soren to just forgive him, could he?
That’s not the way it works. You can’t ever bury the past. It’ll always be there, the good and the bad.
And if you’ve wronged someone, they’re never gonna forget, no matter how deep they’re buried.
That’s just the way it works.
A crowd was starting to form around the blockade. People were just starting to wake up, and it would take a little more than men in dark suits with large guns to keep people from asking questions.
Jamison made his way through the group of people. Most recognized him and began assaulting him with questions, but he didn’t answer any of them. He had a few questions of his own that he needed answered first.
He found the man who had knocked on his door last night.
“Excuse, me, Mr. Smith, was it?”
The man frowned.
“Yes, that’s me. What do you want?”
“My name is Jamison Valera. I represent the community of Goulds Point.” He offered his hand, but the man didn’t shake it. “I wanted to ask you a few questions concerning this quarantine.”
Mr. Smith took a step forward. “We’re not here to answer questions, sir. We’re here to enforce this quarantine, and you’re to stay within the confines of the zone.”
“Yes, I understand that, but—”
“No more questions. We’re doing this for your safety more than anything.” Mr. Smith lifted his gun and pointed it at Jamison. “Now, are you going to listen to me and move on, or am I going to have to shoot?”
Jamison raised his hands in surrender. “I’m not looking for trouble, Mr. Smith. I just wanted some more information.”
The man continued to train his weapon at Jamison until he turned away from him.
So much for that.
If the government agents in charge of the quarantine were treating them more like prisoners than anything else, were they really trying to protect them like they claimed? And if they weren’t letting anyone in or out, how were his kids going to make it back inside?
They hadn’t much to say to each other on the bus. Rosemarie had wanted to ask Jace about himself, but he seemed too preoccupied with the bus to hold any conversations.
Rosemarie wondered why she had been so trusting. She didn’t even know who this guy was. And, yet, here she was, speeding down the highway with him in a noisy, smelly school bus.
But he said he would help me, and he seems genuine enough.
The bus starting to shake. Rosemarie looked at Jace, who was frantically checking the dashboard.
“Is everything okay?”
“I’m afraid not,” he said. “We’re breaking down, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
The bus sputtered and died just as he pulled it over onto the shoulder. This was the second time in their journey to Homestead that they’d been stalled.
Jace stood up. “I’m not a mechanic, Rosemarie. I have no idea how to fix this.” He made his way over to the front door. “The only thing I can think of is hitching a ride down there.”
“Do you think anyone will take us?” Rosemarie followed him down the steps and out of the bus.
“We can only try.” He took a few steps forward and looked at the oncoming traffic. He started to wave when a jeep started to slow down.
“Well, would you look at that. Someone’s stopping already.”
AS Rosemarie strained to see the people in the jeep, she noticed two more vehicles slowing down behind them.
“Jace, do you see that? There are two more cars back there.”
He nodded. “Well, I guess that’s more people trying to help.
But when people began spilling from the vehicles, Rosemarie wasn’t so sure.
A man approached them from the jeep, gun extended.
“Jace, I don’t think they’re trying to help us.”