From the top of the Lighthouse, Tam could see smoke stacks from a dozen fires. The mass movement of Wrecks seemed to be aimed at some woods about a mile from her vantage point, just outside Varsity.
It was guilt that got her moving. She was worried about Rand. She went down the steps on the outside of the tower. At the bottom, two burnt patches of ground like oil slicks. And corpses reduced to charcoal. She climbed the railing and sneaked back to the Lexus.
Luckily, Wrecks were not interested in looting. The door was open, keys in the ignition. They even left the Molotovs and steel bar untouched.
But it wouldn’t start. The last Wreck attack had done something to the engine. Electrics maybe. She was getting dashboard lights but the starter wasn’t even making a sound. She put a few pointless swear words on record, and got out.
The steel bar was cold and heavy in her hands. She couldn’t carry both Molotov Cocktails. So she just took one and started walking, back towards the church where she had lost Rand and Caleb. She hadn’t got far when the cloying smell of gasoline made her stop and think things through. Both her hands were occupied now. If she hid them under the poncho (like she’d have to if a Wreck saw her), she’d coat herself in gas. It was pointless. Then she thought of the spare chillies and chilli sauce. Fuck it, she couldn’t go without them. They were Rand’s only hope.
Before she had a chance to think of her next move, a small mob of Wrecks appeared at the other side of the square and advanced, like a procession, perpendicular to where she stood. She froze just like a rabbit in the headlights of a car. But her mind was working. Her against them with a steel bar and one Molotov? Not good odds. And there were only a handful of them. Then she wondered what she was doing standing out here in the open. When the Wrecks disappeared, she walked back to the Lexus.
She remembered Frankenbogart. He’d been a sort of hero to them. But his technique might have been based on bravado or even a death wish. She needed to develop her own strategy, using her own insights.
Travel light. Stay hidden. Be ready to run. Duck and cover. Just like a rabbit. Frankenbogart might not agree with her, but he could go fuck himself. He was probably dead and Wrecked by now anyway.
Rand had a nice SLR camera in his trunk. She checked it for anything interesting but he hadn’t got around to using it. The case, however, was perfect. She filled it with chillies. There was also a carton of juice that was half chilli sauce. The infamous Scary Mary, a drink fit for the dying. Tam’s own homemade Pepper Spray felt pathetic all of a sudden. She visualised what would make it better, and the answer was simple. One of the stores on the square was for gardeners. They had a neat bottle for spraying weed killer. She borrowed it. The window was shattered so it wasn’t hard. She filled the weed sprayer with a pint of chilli sauce.
The steel bar and stinking Molotov were left behind. She headed for the end of a line of stores at the edge of the square. They backed onto storage yards. She followed a concrete wall until it ended in a wide road. Varsity’s streets were generally long, straight and wide. This gave her a good view of her options. There were three Wrecks a long way off. They might spot her if she crossed. But that was where she was going. She waited, thinking and watching.
There was a crash somewhere in the distance. She barely heard it. But the Wrecks turned towards it. Her body was primed and she bolted to the cover of a parked car. She glanced out. They were still looking away. She covered her head with the poncho and glided across the road to a big tree.
They’d seen her. Somehow, she felt it didn’t matter. Once she wasn’t still here when they arrived. In front of her was an apartment block. There was a window open downstairs. She got through it quickly and quietly. Down a narrow hallway, parquet flooring. Furniture piled outside one door. She kept rigidly quiet. Out the fire door at the other end. She emerged into a play area that backed onto trees.
It worked. Finally, she was doing something right. She flanked every Wreck she saw, and stayed in shadows. They would see her, but wouldn’t know what they were seeing. She had the patience to keep still until they moved on or got distracted. And her mind pored over ways to make her strategy better, easier, safer.