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Charlotte stood behind the bar, watching the patrons. Fred Gurtz drained his beer, and set the empty glass down on the bar. She stepped forward, reaching for the glass. “Need another, hun?” She knew he had half a dozen credits left in his pocket.
“Nah, I better quit. The wife sent me to get some kind of protein, she don’t need ta know I was in here. Sometimes a man just needs a beer and the sight of a pretty girl to keep him goin’, ya know?”
Charlotte flashed her perfect smile at him. “Aww, Freddie, that’s sweet. You get on home to your pretty little wife and tell her Charlie says hi.” Fred’s wife Molly Lynn was more of a regular than he was. She was small, just over five feet tall and couldn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds.
Before all of this though, Molly Lynn had been a big woman, at least judging from the amount of extra skin that hung off her. Her teeth were almost gone, and her face scarred, remnants of an addiction to meth. There wasn’t anything physically pretty about her, but there was an inner strength to be admired. She was the only drug addict Charlie knew that got clean and survived, and that earned her some respect. Plus she was the sweetest woman Charlotte knew. Molly Lynn was bubbly and happy, always a smile on her face, always looking on the bright side. Her attitude was the reason she’d been invited up to Charlie’s suite a few times. She had no idea if Fred knew that his wife was one of her best customers.
The clock on the wall showed her it was almost one in the morning. The band ended a song and several members of the crowd cheered. Charlie stepped up onto the bar, put her hands to her mouth and yelled, “Last call! Closing in fifteen minutes!”
A chorus of boos erupted from the crowd. “Shut your holes,” Charlie yelled. She grinned and continued, “Give it up for The Killers! Be sure to toss the band a few credits, tip my girls, and stop in the store on your way out.”
The band picked up again, launching into the song that had made them famous way before the outbreak. Charlie knew all the words to “Mr. Brightside” and sang along in her head as she cleaned the back bar, and tried not to worry about where Nyko had gone. He was always prone to nighttime excursions. He said the infected didn’t see as well at night. But she knew the real reason. Nyko was desperate to get out Vegas. It wasn’t that New Vegas was such a terrible place to live; it’s that he was driven to see what was out there over the horizon.
She hoped he would take her with him. Charlotte had been in love with Nyko from the moment she met him. Two days after the outbreak, she was huddled down in her pre-fabricated house at the edge of the trailer park, trying not to make any noise. The infected surrounded her house. They’d been beating on the walls for a full day.
For twenty-four hours she sat in her bathroom, the only interior room in her house, with the door locked and a small .22 caliber pistol in her lap. She drank water from the sink and waited for them to get in.
She tried not to get her hopes up when she heard the motorcycle stop outside her house. She tried to stay calm, huddled down in the bathroom while she heard gunshot after gunshot. After a minute, the gunshots stopped, along with all the pounding on her walls.
Five gunshots, then nothing.
The biker was probably one of them now. In a few minutes, when they’d eaten enough of him, he’d turn, and they would all start pounding on her walls again.
For half an hour she sat there, waiting for the pounding to resume, but it never did. Curiosity finally got the best of her and she crawled out of the bathroom towards the living room. Charlotte peeked out the window to see the biker for the first time, covered in blood and gore.
There were corpses all around him. Two of them had white pickets from her fence still sticking out of their faces. He was wearing yellow goggles and had a red bandana tied around his nose and mouth.
The man crouched and then launched himself at one of the infected, leaping high in the air, driving his gloved fist into the nose of her neighbor Eddie. Eddie was covered in oozing sores, which splattered when the Biker’s blow landed.
He turned as Eddie collapsed in a heap, pulled one of the white pickets out of a corpse and swung it like a baseball bat at Eddie’s wife. The blow crushed the side of her head in and she collapsed. The biker fell to one knee, using the picket to support himself and took a couple deep, panting breaths before struggling to his feet.
“May I use your hose?” He called towards the house. “I’ve killed them all, you’re safe now.”
Charlotte ran across her living room and threw her door open. “Don’t yell,” she yelled in a half-whisper. “You’ll bring more.”
“Then I’ll kill more, Ma’am. I just need to use your hose to rinse out my gear and then I’ll be on my way.”
“Take me with you!” She called. She had no idea what she was thinking. Strange man, dressed in intimidating clothing, who just killed thirty or more of her neighbors. Gore dripped from almost every part of him, but there was something about him. Something in his actions, something that screamed what she desperately needed. Safety.
“I’m Nyko, by the way,” he said, sliding his goggles up over his head. Charlotte was taken aback by how handsome he was. Not at all in a traditional sense, but in a manly, ‘I just cut down a tree with an axe, killed a bear with my bare hands, and now we’re cooking steaks over an open fire’ kind of way. She almost missed what he said next. “You’re welcome to come along, but I don’t have anywhere to go either. My apartment is above my bike shop in Moapa, that whole town is overrun. I just came from there. They’re not letting anyone in or out of Las Vegas. I’m just looking for someplace to get some sleep.”
“I’m Charlie. I work at a casino supply warehouse. Should be plenty of food and I have the keys,” she said. “The hose is just past the deck. If you’re okay with it, I’ll grab a backpack.”
Nyko nodded to her as he turned on the water and rinsed his bandana and goggles. When he was finished, he sprayed both liberally with Lysol. He had no idea if it would help, but couldn’t hurt. And it helped with the smell.
“What am I gonna do with this fucking girl,” he mused to himself just before she reappeared, wearing riding gear and a backpack.
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