If you’ve never read Afterlife before, click here to go to the first chapter.
Afterlife is a sci fi/western action serial published every other week. Join us in a post-apocalyptic journey through a future where life has become little more than a struggle for survival. However, where there’s life, there’s always hope.
Read the previous chapter here:
Abby and her companions arrive in North Point.
The spy contacts Herman Rennock.
Shelly talks with Sera Knight who offers to be her mentor.
Check out Afterlife on Goodreads and don’t forget to rate it.
Afterlife, Volume 2, Chapter 20
Bobby watched as Alicia, the beautiful Latina waitress who worked at the Crosshairs Saloon, walked away from him. He couldn’t keep his eyes off her curves and her long, slender tan legs. He watched her waist-length black hair bounce as she walked to the next table. He shook his head and turned his attention back to Shelly, who was laughing with Juan, the tall, handsome Mexican who played piano in the saloon. Juan was in between sets, and Shelly was standing over him as he sat at the piano. Bobby wondered if her interest in Juan went beyond music as he sat at the crowded bar and finished his beer. Basil Simmons showed up almost immediately, standing behind the bar with his usual suspicious glare. “Would you like another, Bobby?”
Bobby nodded. “Long day. I could use another.” Basil nodded back and walked away to pour Bobby’s drink. Bobby picked at the fries he’d ordered. They were good, but nothing special. It was hard to mess up potatoes and salt.
Bobby was surprised to see Alicia walk back towards him and sit down on the stool next to his, a saucy smile on her beautiful tan face. “It’s busy in here tonight,” she said with her sexy accent.
“Then why are you sitting down?” Bobby joked. He was nervous and surprised himself cracking such a joke in front of her. Maybe being around Shelly so much had made him more comfortable around beautiful women.
“Bobby!” Alicia said with a laugh. “What, I can’t sit down now?”
“I was joking,” Bobby said with a smile, glancing at Shelly as she talked with Juan. She glanced up and smiled at Bobby and he smiled back. “Of course you can sit down.”
“You really know how to make a woman feel special,” Alicia said, grinning seductively.
“I have a girlfriend you know,” Bobby said as he ate another fry. Basil placed his beer on the bar in front of him.
“I have a husband,” Alicia said. “What, I can’t make small talk because you have a girlfriend? You’re awfully boring. El mojigato.”
“What?” Bobby asked.
“How do you say it? Prude.” She laughed.
Bobby rolled his eyes and chuckled. “Don’t you have some tables that you need to tend to?”
Alicia frowned. “Sure.” She stood and walked away. Bobby tried his best not to watch her. Instead, he watched Shelly as she joked with Juan, smiling over at him from time to time.
Basil came back to Bobby after he served another patron their drink. “Don’t pay Alicia any mind. She’s like that with everybody.”
Bobby smiled and nodded. “I figured. I don’t mind. It’s fine.”
“So how about some of Madge’s famous five alarm chili? You still haven’t tried it, have you?” Madge was the cook who worked at the saloon. She was a plump, matronly woman who always had a smile on her face. She lit up the room whenever she emerged occasionally from the kitchen in the back.
Bobby laughed. “She put you up to this, right?”
Basil smiled and nodded. “Try one bite and you’ll be a believer, though. I stand by it. It’s the best chili in Numurka.”
“I’m sure it is,” Bobby said. “Maybe some other time, though. I’m not all that hungry. The fries should be enough.”
Basil shrugged. “Suit yourself. You’re missing out, though.”
“I’ll put it on my bucket list.”
“All right, then,” Basil said. He walked to the other end of the bar to ask another patron what they wanted. Bobby found himself staring at Alicia again and quickly turned his eyes back to Shelly, who must have said something particularly funny, because Juan was laughing hysterically. Bobby looked around at the other patrons in the saloon. The poker game was going on and there was a decent sized crowd around the table. There were a lot of people at the bar and the tables were mostly full. Alicia had been right. It was a busy night.
Juan started playing piano again and Shelly walked over to Bobby and sat down next to him. “Why don’t we head back home and spend some quiet time together?” she asked with a grin.
Bobby smiled back. “Quiet time?”
She winked at him and nodded. “Quiet time. Or maybe it doesn’t have to be so quiet. Maybe we can wake the neighbors.”
Bobby laughed. “Sounds like a good idea.” It seemed like it had been some time since the two of them had spent a significant amount of time alone together. Bobby scarfed down the last of his fries and watched as a young man in his early twenties walked through the flapping saloon doors and approached him.
The man was tall and thin with a tan cowboy hat and a round face underneath it that was covered with brown stubble. Bobby immediately recognized him as one of the Daytons, though he couldn’t remember whose son he was. He was really hoping the young man wasn’t one of that racist old blowhard Richard Dayton’s sons. Bobby dropped his left hand to his side near where his gun was holstered just in case. “You Nat Bigum’s deputy?” the man asked.
Shelly smiled at Bobby and walked away towards the piano, which Juan was playing beautifully. It sounded jazzy, possibly something from the bebop era. Bobby nodded at the young man standing before him and looked him in his eyes. “I’m Bobby Brooklyn.”
“I’m Tommy Dayton, Spencer Dayton’s son.” Bobby nodded. Spencer was definitely the more reasonable of the two older generation Dayton brothers who were still alive. When Bobby and Nat came to visit, Spencer’s wife invited them in and gave them some snacks. Spencer still refused to let any of his sons work for Nat, but he didn’t threaten them and chase them off with a gun the way Richard had. “I want to take your boss up on his offer,” Tommy said.
Bobby looked at him with a bewildered expression. “What do you mean?”
“I want to be one of Nat’s deputies.”
“You don’t mind working with a Moore?” Bobby asked.
Tommy shook his head. “I ain’t got nothin’ against those Moores. My cousins, my uncle, my dad, and my older brother are a different story. Me, I just wanna work. I’m the best shot of all of us, too.”
“There’s more to being a deputy than shooting,” Bobby said.
“I know that,” Tommy said. “But there’s a war comin’. And you all are gonna need some good guns.”
Bobby nodded. “Let’s go see Nat.” He smiled at Shelly and shrugged and she smiled back and mouthed the word “later.” Bobby noticed lots of suspicious eyes in the saloon watching as he led Tommy Dayton through the flapping doors. A lot of people in Dead Man’s Bluff viewed the Daytons as outsiders since most of them lived on the outskirts of town, and many of the townspeople sided with the Moores when it came to the feud.
Bobby and Tommy left the saloon and walked up the road beneath the starry night sky until they reached Abner Miller’s large stone house, where the wine cellar which currently served as Nat’s office was located. There was a side door that led down into the cellar, so nobody had to go through Abner’s house when they had business with the sheriff. Two deputies were standing guard near the cellar door. One was a hired gun named John Bracken and the other was Chuck Moore, who smiled when he saw Bobby, but seemed a little confused when he noticed Tommy Dayton. Chuck was a muscular man in his thirties who had the same red hair and freckles that most members of his family had. “What’s he doin’ here?” he asked.
“I’m gettin’ a job,” Tommy said. “We’re gonna be coworkers, looks like.”
Chuck grinned. “We are, are we?”
“We’re going down to see Nat,” Bobby said.
Chuck shook his head, but he opened the door for Bobby and Tommy and the two of them went down the stone steps that led down into the wine cellar. The wine cellar was cool and humid, with advanced environmental controls that had been built in by Abner Miller, the owner of the house. Abner was a wealthy man who’d supposedly gotten his money from various business ventures and investments. He seemed a little shady to Bobby, but Bobby knew Nat wasn’t going to investigate since Abner was letting him use his wine cellar as a makeshift sheriff’s office. Nat figured the underground rooms would be safer from the IAO’s attacks than anything above ground. Nat had spent most of his time holed up in the cellar since he knew the IAO was probably out to get him. There were a few scattered wine bottles and barrels on various metal racks, but Abner had sold most of the wine. He just kept enough for himself these days. At the end of the cellar near a metal door was a metal table with several folding chairs. Nat was seated in one of the chairs, watching as Bobby and Tommy approached. “Tommy Dayton,” Nat said.
“Good day to ya,” Tommy said.
“I don’t suppose you’re comin’ to take me up on the offer I made your family.”
“I am,” Tommy said.
Nat seemed a little surprised. “Really? Well that’s good news. You’ve got some sense, kid. We both know it ain’t the Moores stirin’ up trouble in this town. And I know it ain’t the Daytons, either. It’s the International Anarchy Organization, and I mean to get to the bottom of it.”
“I’ll help,” Tommy said. “I’m a good shot. And I’m willin’ to learn anything you want to teach me.”
Nat grinned his ugly grin. “Then I’ll teach ya a lot. Bobby, take ‘im to the gun shop and get ‘im a shiny new weapon. Think of it as a startin’ gift.”
Tommy smiled. “Thank ya kindly, sir.”
“Don’t mention it,” Nat said. He stood, walked over to Tommy and shook his hand. “It’s gonna be a dangerous job. It’s the least I can do.”
The meeting of the Lead Council of the Free Society Federation was taking place in a farmhouse near the dunes where General Rodriguez’ army was camped. Abby and Alex were escorted by a squad of the general’s personal guards and they were now seated at a faux wooden table with the other council members. Abby looked out the window and watched aerial assault vehicles zip through the sky, reminding her of the high level of security in North Point and the surrounding area. She wished they made her feel more secure as she looked around at the people seated at the table, trying to remember the things Alex had told her about each person. Alex was seated to her right and to her left was Doctor Elias Long, the tall, thin, balding man with glasses who had helped her kick her pain killer habit after she’d left South Edge. General Rodriguez was across the table from her, looking rather hungover, though he was still managing to smile. To his left was a black woman with short hair and glasses. She was Averil Jones, a programmer and hacker who had helped design Einstein among other things. Judith Israel was seated on the other side of General Rodriguez. She was a woman in her late twenties or early thirties with long, brown hair and kind green eyes. Judith was the group’s treasurer. Glen Stratus, an elderly man with sunken gray eyes, was the economist behind a lot of the group’s planning. Finally, Heather Cylburn was a very beautiful middle aged woman with a thin face and long, blonde hair. She was the political face of the resistance and according to Alex, their de facto leader. Everyone was still waiting on Barney Chambers, a blogger who was known as the voice of the resistance. Winston Cooper, the group’s historian, and Bernard Parks, a famous inventor, were not going to be able to make it this time. Abby figured neither of them was the spy.
Eventually, the door opened and a man came in on a hover chair. He was an overweight elderly man with a gray beard and glasses. His round face and round, red nose made Abby think of Santa Claus. She grinned at the thought as the man floated in his chair towards the table and let it lower down onto the floor. A muscular man in a blue uniform nodded and walked away, leaving through the door once the man’s hover chair was in place at the table. Everyone exchanged greetings and Abby realized this last arrival was Barney Chambers. He smiled at her. “And you’re the famous Abigail Song. It’s nice to finally meet you. I knew your father well, but alas, I never had the chance to meet his family.”
Abby nodded. “It’s nice to meet you also. I’ve heard so much about you.”
“Now that we’re all here,” Heather Cylburn began, clasping her slender hands on the table in front of her, “I’m afraid we need to get down to business. We have limited time and it isn’t often we’re able to get together like this, even if everyone couldn’t make it.” Abby saw wisdom in Heather’s blue eyes. She was a beautiful woman, but there was something elegant and regal about her. “First of all, as I’m sure you all know, there’s a new possible enemy who’s sprung up in recent weeks. We’re now facing Herman Rennock, the People’s Army of Mexico, and the International Anarchy Organization. That’s not to mention other smaller groups we’ve been struggling with in our various locations. Of these, the IAO poses the most dangerous new developments that we need to discuss.”
“Several platoons in my army have fought skirmishes with members of the IAO,” General Rodriguez said. “They’re disorganized, but they’re also unpredictable. They’ve been a pest, but no more dangerous to my army than mice or rats.”
“Rats can spread disease,” Doctor Long said. “We shouldn’t underestimate them just because they don’t have a profound military presence.”
“There are a lot of people who see the IAO as a legitimate alternative to Rennock Enterprises,” Barney Chambers said, shifting in his hover chair. “Some people have latched onto their outsider mindset. There’s a sort of roguish charm to them that appeals to disenfranchised young people. They most definitely aren’t a group to be taken lightly.”
“They’re mostly criminals,” Glen Stratus, the economist said in a nasally voice. “The majority of the people see them as such. If Rennock isn’t able to handle them, we shouldn’t have too much trouble with them.”
“There are many people who see them as a threat to decent civilization,” Barney said. “I believe if we play our cards right, we can use them to help us recruit more people to our cause.”
“See to it, Barney,” Heather said to him. “Have you been blogging about them?”
“When I can,” Barney said. “When their activities actually come to light. The problem is they’re a secretive group and there’s a lot of speculation. When I spread information, I prefer to stick to the facts. I believe that’s our best recruiting tactic. Sticking to truth and facts. No one can close their eyes once they’re confronted with an undeniable truth. Unless of course they chose to lie to themselves.”
“Of course different people have different ways of viewing things,” Alex said. “One person’s truth could be another’s falsification.”
“Spoken like a true philosopher,” General Rodriguez said with a chuckle.
“Speaking of recruiting,” Heather said, turning her attention to General Rodriguez, “how has your army been doing with new recruits in the past weeks?”
“We’ve had more than ever,” the general replied, “thanks in part to the efforts of Barney and his campaign. I don’t have Foxtrot with me to confirm the numbers, but I think we’ve been getting about two hundred new people a week or so lately. And the days after the Battle of Primrose we saw something like a thousand.”
“Very good,” Heather said.
“We were actually in Primrose during the battle,” Alex said. “I believe one of the people who was with us, Mavery Thomas, was actually able to get some footage of the murderous deeds of Rennock’s forces there.”
“Can you introduce her to me?” Barney Chambers asked. “I believe I can use some of that footage in my campaign.”
“Of course,” Alex said.
“And that leads us to Miss Abigail Song,” Heather said. Abby felt a pang of nervousness tense up her body. “She was also in Primrose and it was there she made herself known to the public.”
Barney nodded and smiled at Abby. “You’ve had an enormous positive impact on my campaign, Miss Song. It’s helped to have a new, young heroic face to attach to our cause.”
Abby swallowed. “Thanks. I’m glad my face could be of use.” Many at the table laughed.
“We’re all sorry about what happened to your family,” Judith Israel, the treasurer said with a kind smile. “Please let us know if there’s anything we can do for you. We know you’ve been through a lot.”
“Thanks,” Abby said. “But I’ve learned to fend for myself pretty well over the last few years.” She looked around for guilty eyes but found none. Everyone at the table seemed to be expressing sincere sorrow.
“You’re a very strong young woman,” Heather Cylburn said with a smile. “But don’t hesitate to ask if you do need anything. For now, back to the IAO. Have you or your group you’ve been traveling with had any dealings with them?”
“Some,” Abby said. “My group was attacked near Dead Man’s Bluff not far from here. The IAO seems to be trying to restart the Moore-Dayton Feud for some reason. Also, in Carpenter City the corrupt pastor who was pretty much like the mayor of that town was involved with the IAO.”
Heather nodded. “Restarting the feud seems to go along with their stated goals of spreading chaos and disorder. We still aren’t sure of their real motives and ultimate goals, though. I believe there’s more to them than meets the eye. As far as the pastor goes, is he still at large?”
Abby shook her head. “Nat Bigum blew his brains out.” There were some gasps at the table and General Rodriguez was chuckling.
“That brings me to something I’d like to talk about later,” Heather said with a deep breath. “I have some questions about your choice of friends, Abby.” She glanced at Alex. Abby wondered if he’d told her about Ace McCoy and Annabelle Rose. Abby really didn’t feel like talking about them anymore. “First, though…” Heather’s attention turned to Judith Israel. “…Judith, what’s the state of our funding?”
Judith frowned. “It’s not good. We’re in desperate need of more money. Many of our business interests have been wiped out by Rennock and he’s confiscated some of our accounts and investments.”
“Stolen, you mean,” Glen Stratus said angrily.
“Stolen,” Judith corrected herself. “We desperately need more money if we want to continue what we’re doing.” She glanced at Abby. “Abby, if the rumors are true, your father entrusted you with a large sum of money. Now that you’re here, is there any way you can give at least some of it to the treasury?”
“I’m still trying to track some of it down,” Abby said. “I’m sorry. My instructions are not to give it to anyone until I have all of it and reach Valhalla.” Abby wondered if maybe Judith was the spy. Asking for the money seemed a little suspicious to her, even if Judith was the treasurer.
“If there’s any you can spare,” Heather added, “we could definitely use it.”
Glen Stratus nodded. “There’s no way the resistance can survive without more funding.” It seemed that many people agreed with Judith. Abby tried not to jump to conclusions. Any one of them could have been the spy. Abby glanced at the programmer, Averil Jones. She was the only person who hadn’t spoken yet. She may have just been shy, though.
“Enough,” Alex said. “Abby can’t give any of the money yet. We have to wait until we have all of it and get it safely to Valhalla. Abby has been very good at keeping the money secure up until now. I have faith that she’ll continue to do so. We can’t risk letting it fall into the wrong hands. But that brings me to something I wanted Abby to talk to all of you about.” He glanced at her. “Abby, can you tell the council about your latest plan to raise funds?”
Abby swallowed. She cursed Alex in her mind for putting her on the spot. She didn’t want to say anything in front of the spy. The last thing she needed was for Herman Rennock to know that she was robbing banks with Ace McCoy and Annabelle Rose. “I’d rather keep my plans to myself for now, Alex.”
Alex frowned through his beard. “But the council needs to know about anything that’s important to the survival of the resistance. Abby, if you don’t tell them, I will.”
Abby shook her head. “Alex, don’t you dare.”
He looked at her with concern. Was he trying to help her, or was he the spy after all? “Abby was considering robbing banks with Ace McCoy and Annabelle Rose to take Rennock’s money and give it to the resistance.”
Abby watched some at the table snicker. Even Averil Jones, the quiet one. “Rob banks with Ace McCoy and Annabelle Rose?” General Rodriguez asked. “It’s an insane idea with very little chance of being successful. I love it! High risk, high reward. Abby, are you sure you don’t play poker?”
“Abby,” Barney Chambers said, “I’ve written a lot about Ace and Annabelle over the years. I’m sure you’ve heard that they’re modern day Robin Hoods who steal from the rich to give to the poor, and sure, there are many who love them. Like the IAO, they appeal to the young and disenfranchised elements of society, but Abby, I know for a fact that they aren’t what they appear to be. From Ace’s interviews I can see he has a charming quality, too. But he’s a manipulator and he uses that charm to pull the wool over people’s eyes.” He had a grave expression on his round face and no longer looked like Santa Claus. “Listen, Abby. I’ve talked to relatives of their victims. I’ve interviewed mothers of children they’ve murdered in cold blood. Annabelle Rose especially is a bona fide psychotic. Believe me, you don’t want to be associated with people like them. If they don’t kill you, they’ll change you. And not in a good way.”
“I’ve been through a lot,” Abby said. “I can take care of myself. And I’ll have good people working with me. We’ll keep them under control.” She looked around at the faces at the table, stopping on Barney’s. “My brothers and sisters were murdered in cold blood in front of my face. I’ve been on the run for years now. I’ve seen people die. I’ve killed people. I’ve seen my share of blood. If you think a couple of bank robbers are going to change me, you don’t know me very well. Quite frankly, I probably have more in common with them than I do with any of you at this point.” She took a deep breath. “We desperately need money. You said so yourselves. And the Jupiter Diamond was stolen from us. That was two hundred billion dollars. That kind of money isn’t going to be easy to replace. But if we can hit Rennock and take his money and give it to ourselves…”
“Abby, I think hitting Rennock’s banks is a great idea,” Barney said. “I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is the people who you’ve chose to help you carry out this plan. Let us do this together. As a group. We can come up with a good plan.”
“My army may be able to help,” General Rodriguez said, “but we’ve been trying to figure out a way to hit Black Rock for years now. That’s where one of Rennock’s biggest banks is located. And they have diamonds and gold there to back up their money. Rennock has a very powerful and well trained security force there, though, and the location is in the foothills of the Rockies and would be very hard to attack. Maybe a smaller group is the way to go, rather than a full scale attack with an army.”
“Either way,” Heather said. “I think we need to vote on Abby’s idea. Abby, something this important to the resistance can’t be left to one person’s decision. We always vote on things like this. The rule is there must be at least nine members of the council present and there are, so let’s vote on Abby’s idea. All in favor of Abby taking Ace McCoy and Annabelle Rose with her to rob Rennock’s banks raise your hands.” Only Abby and General Rodriguez raised their hands. “All in favor of discussing the possibility and maybe finding a different way to hit Rennock’s banks raise your hands.” Everyone else raised their hands. The vote was seven to two against Abby. “Very well, then,” Heather said. “Abby, there are valid points you made and we do need to consider hitting Rennock’s banks, but doing it with Ace and Annabelle isn’t the way to go. I ask that you honor our decision. If you want to remain a part of the council, you’ll need to abide by our rules.”
Abby nodded. “All right then.” They were probably right. Still, Abby couldn’t help but feel that she found Ace and Annabelle in Dead Man’s Bluff for a reason. She felt they had some part to play. “Maybe we can use Ace and Annabelle as advisors, then? I mean, they are more experienced at robbing banks than anyone. They did it for years and were never captured.”
“They’re in a prison tent as we speak,” Glen Stratus said.
“Well,” Abby said, “they were never captured until they ran into Nat Bigum.”
“That’s a valid idea,” Heather said. “They would be great advisors when it comes to hitting Rennock’s banks if we can get them to agree to do it.”
Barney Chambers shook his head. “They’re better off left where they are. I don’t think we should seek help from people like them.”
“Well,” Heather said. “This will require more deliberation, but we only have so much time the next couple of days. On to the next subject.”
The group talked for several hours about various issues facing the resistance and then broke for lunch. Averil Jones finally spoke when they talked about technological advances. The group’s inventor, Bernard Parks, wasn’t present so Averil filled in for him and also answered questions about some computer programs she was working on. During the lunch break, Abby made her way across the dunes to Della’s tent. The two of them walked to a secluded spot where they could talk without worrying about anyone eavesdropping. They stood in a valley between two high dunes, surrounded by sand. “So I think I know how we can capture the spy in the Lead Council,” Abby said. She still kept her voice down, just in case.
Della smiled. “Tell me, honey.”
“Do you still have connections with the resistance over here, from when you were in Silver City?”
Della nodded. “It’s hard for people to forget me.”
Abby smiled. “I’m going to secretly tell each person in the council a location where the next set of diamonds are and I’m going to ask for their help. None of these is going to be the real location, of course. I want you to keep in close contact with the resistance in each city. Tell me if Rennock’s enforcers or Panthers in any city try to go to the bank and look for a safe deposit box. I’m pretty sure they will in whichever city I tell the spy.”
Della grinned. “Sounds like a plan.”
Continue on to the next chapter:
Afterlife, Volume 2, Chapter 21
Shelly begins her training with Sera.
Nat Bigum takes a posse to confront members of the IAO.
The identity of the spy in the Lead Council is discovered.
Check out Afterlife on Goodreads and don’t forget to rate it.
Check out Michael Monroe’s page on Amazon to find other stuff he’s written.
Like Afterlife on Facebook to find out when the next chapter is posted.
Follow Afterlife on Twitter to get updates on new postings and other news.
Follow Afterlife on Tumblr for access to supplemental material.