"So what brings you two here?" She was managing to eat, talk, and not get any spaghetti sauce on her. I was impressed.
"Just passing thru. How about you?" I was asking her but I also looked at the other two as I was genuinely curious why people came here.
"Oh...I see...being the mysterious stranger." She gave me a crooked smile and it clicked. She liked me. She really, really liked me. This was a change for me. Usually they fell over me trying to get to Max. We locked eyes for a few beats and she looked down. The guy who was part of the couple who had joined her at the table filled the empty conversational space "We're here because we want to live free." He didn't just say this. He stated it. "We want to raise a family in a place where the laws are enforced and people know you have to pull your weight to make it. No more craziness. We want law and order." His woman, I wasn't sure what their relationship was, chimed in with "Peace and quiet. We just don't to worry about the lights going out. The General is fixing all that."
She continued proudly "Mike is a chiropractor and the government said medical people get special privileges."
I just looked at her. No wonder this country was so fucked up. We had an endless supply of idiots. Sherri told me about how she had studied to be a vet and while she had not finished she thought her skills would be in demand. She was telling us how the Zone promised her safety and a chance to do something with her life when her voice trailed off with a muttered "Oh shit."
I could feel them come up behind us. I casually swung my legs up and over the bench seat and pivoted to watch Sledge and his crew approach. The boys stopped a few paces away while Sledge sat down next to me. I noticed he didn't tuck his feet over the side of the bench either. He looked at me, smiled brightly and said "Hey Gardener."
My reply was a noncommittal "Hey."
He wasn't looking at me anymore. He was looking at Sherri. "Hi Sweetie."
"What do you want?"
I watched Sledge out of the corner of my eye while I watched his boys. I smiled at Greasy Ink who mouthed a silent "Fuck you" to me. Sledge was huge and he smelled like sweat, gunpowder, and the aftermath of a lightening strike. It wasn't unpleasant. It did make me aware, I mean really aware again that I wasn't carrying a weapon. I was going to have to take care of that soonest. I was also aware that whatever I made wouldn't stop this guy unless I cut his throat.
"Just thought I would let you know that I hadn't forgot you."
He pushed off and walked away. I looked at Sherri. She had gone white. "That guy scares me."
Zane added "He's an asshole."
I looked at him, laughed, and said "Yep. But he has a nice smile." Then I laughed some more.