Whoever had shut everything down likely hadn’t expected a supposed-to-be-dead FBI agent to find an old, long-abandoned service road into Groundswell using an outdated road atlas.
“Thanks mom,” Shonda whispered. Her mother, months before her death, had come over to her apartment and chastised her for throwing the atlas away during a deep spring cleaning. She’d then dug it out of the trash and said “You never know when you might need it. Sometimes these gadgets like to break down.”
She smiled. Moms always turned out to be right, eventually.
After driving several miles over a vine-draped mess of asphalt chunks and fallen tree limbs, she was forced to stop in front of a massive tree trunk that appeared to have been lying across the road for at least a decade.
With a ditch to her left and dense woods to her right, she was left with no alternative but to get out and walk.
She grabbed her gun, a flashlight and a bottle of water out of the bag in her trunk and set off on foot towards Groundswell.
Wildlife was abundant–she saw a deer, a hawk, a raccoon and an armadillo all within the first five minutes of her trek. The raccoon had stopped and stared at her with what seemed like curiousity. It’d probably never seen a human being, she’d reflected.
The sun was starting to go down now, and the drone of the nighttime insects was almost deafening.
A snake slithered past her feet and she jumped back, her heart pounding like a jackhammer. “Shit!”
This place had been reclaimed by nature–she was an invader.
By the time she finally made it into town, it was dark. She caught a brief glimpse of what looked like a dog trotting down the street, just before it darted silently between two old buildings and disappeared.
It was, quite literally, she was willing to bet, a ghost town.
With everything awash in cool, pale moonglow, Groundswell looked surreal and otherworldly, like a dream.
Or a nightmare, rather.
She couldn’t imagine Logan going back to Axton at this point, so she desperately hoped he was still hiding somewhere in Groundswell. If not, it meant he’d likely been killed or captured.
She walked down the town’s main street, her weapon drawn and her finger on the trigger, listening for anything that didn’t sound like the chirping of crickets, the buzzing of cicadas, or the hooting of owls–human sounds, in other words.
She stopped next to a bench, upon which sat two AK-47s in pristine condition. Someone had left those there recently, which was not, in her estimation, a good sign. Logan would never have abandoned two perfectly good assault rifles unless he hadn’t had a choice in the matter.
And if he didn’t leave them there… who did?
There was a duffel bag full of ammo and a couple of grenades. She took both of those and hooked them to the waistband of her pants.
She holstered her pistol and attempted to pick up both rifles before deciding it wasn’t worth the hassle. She took one, hid it beneath the counter of some ancient nearby store with no windows and absconded with the other.
She shined her flashlight at the ground, and noticed that it had been recently disturbed by multiple sets of feet–maybe even a whole group of five or six. There were identical bootprints all over the place. One set of footprints was made by a pair of men’s Nike tennis shoes, though–she could see the logo pressed into the claylike red dirt in some spots.
Whoever was wearing those Nikes had dragged his feet and shuffled them in order to leave a trail for someone.
For her, she realized.
The AK felt good in her arms. She felt a little safer. She wasn’t sure, though, if it was going to be enough.