She says nothing. Amid the mess on the table she finds a bunsen burner with a heavy metal base and, gripping it tight around its rusted chrome stem, takes it over to where Royal lies shrinking on the ground.
Hey, Royal says. What you doin? Stop it—I ain’t done nothin to you. I ain’t done a goddamn thing to—
She gives her fist a backward swing and slams the rounded base of the bunsen burner against his jaw. She hears a crack, and his upper and lower teeth no longer meet the way they should.
Then she starts in on his head, watching herself from behind the curtain of torrential rain falling in her brain, and she doesn’t stop until long after the body stops twitching.
Amid the hot stench of fresh offal, she rises to her feet like the dreadful ghost of a fallen battlefield soldier, her hands tacky with the thick pulpy dregs of death splayed wide. The echoes of clamor having died on the puddled ground, the only sound in the room is the thin insectoid buzzing of three exposed bulbs suspended in ceramic sockets from the ceiling overhead. Even the imprisoned slugs themselves have paused in their perpetual movement to gaze with acquiescent eyes upon the scene of the massacre, as though in harmony with the inexorable and silent melodies of grim decease—as though in deferential recognition of the community of the extinct.
She rises to her feet and blinks, and her eyes are like bleached wafers set against the brown mizzle of blood already drying in flakes on her cheeks and lips and neck. She raises no hand to cleanse herself, marked as she is with a violence ritualistic and primitive as those hunters who would decorate themselves with the ornamental residuum of their prey.
Maury seems unfazed by the destruction surrounding him. When she approaches him, he touches his fingertips to her face as though to wipe away the mask of gore and recognize again the girl he knew before.
Well I’ll be go to hell, little girl, Moses Todd says in an awed whisper from his cell. Do you mind tellin me what that was all about?
She says nothing. She helps Maury from the chair and kicks away the blood-spattered debris on the floor so he won’t step in it.
I mean, Moses goes on, you opened up enough killing for twenty people on those three bastards. I ain’t complainin, I’m just sayin.
She picks up the gurkha knife and stows it under her arm and leads Maury toward the door.
You got a burnin flame in you, Moses says. I sure wouldn’t want to be the one to come between you and your chosen path. But I guess I am that one, ain’t I?
She ignores him.
You got kinda fond of your new acquaintance there, he says. Maury. That’s a good name. I had a cousin named Maury once. Truth be told, I don’t know what happened to him. Probably got eaten.
She looks at him, and he is sitting on the ground with his back to the wall looking mighty comfortable.
I’ll be seeing you, little girl.
She says nothing and leads Maury out the door and up the stairs to the big central room of the municipal building. She sets him down in a chair away from the window and looks out into the street. There are some of them out there, not many. One of them is the girl, Millie, who is drawing pictures with chalk on the tarmac in the middle of the intersection.
Maury, she says. You stay here. You hear me? Stay here. I’ll be back in a minute.
He sits silently, squinting his eyes against the sunlight coming dusty through the windows.
She goes back down the stairs. She steps over Royal, whose head is crushed like the afters of a pulpy melon, and stands in front of Moses’s cell. She stands there a long while, just the two of them looking at each other, before she speaks.
I got somethin wrong with me, Mose.
What’s that, little girl?
She gestures to the congealing carnage behind her.
You just defending your friend, Moses says.
It wasn’t—, she says, and she can feel her voice getting whispery now, as though the dead behind her were great listeners of secrets. She says, It didn’t have to be so much. It didn’t have to be like that. I got a devil in me.
Come here, Moses Todd says. She doesn’t know what else to do, so she goes to the bars of his cell and he reaches through them toward her. He puts his fingers on the side of her head by her ear and rubs his thumb across her gore-spattered cheek, then he holds his thumb up to show her the smear of brown blood.
Look, he says. It comes off.
She nods and breathes in deep once and looks around the room again.
All right then, she says, and she feels like she’s agreeing to some contract with the natural world except that she doesn’t know what it says because she can’t read it.
Listen, Moses says. He sees she is preparing to leave, and there is a sudden pragmatism in his voice. I can’t promise you I ain’t gonna kill you. That would be a lie, and I can’t tolerate a lie. But I can offer you a deal you’re probably too smart to take. You get me outta this cell, and I’ll give you a twenty-four-hour head start. You got my word.
She studies him for a moment.
Did you hurt those people? she says.
The Griersons. Did you hurt them?
Little girl, you misapprehend me if you think I go around hurtin nice folk. The old woman even made me a sandwich for the road.
I ain’t playin with you, Mose.
You think I wanna tangle with you and you still slick with blood from your butchery? It was ham, the sandwich, with mustard and tomatoes from her own garden.
She looks at him sideways, but he has never lied to her yet.
I figured somethin out about you, she says.
It’s the car. The car I been drivin all the way from Florida. You got an electronic tracker in it. It’s true, ain’t it? That’s how come you keep findin me.
He gives a hangdog smile and strokes his beard.
They put trackers in all those cars, he says. The woman who gave it to you, Ruby, she didn’t know that.
Uh-huh. I knew it. I knew you wasn’t that good.
He laughs, hearty and ursine.
I’ll still find you, he says. If this here cell ain’t my grave, I’ll find you. Count on it, Sarah Mary Williams. Mutants or no, we still got business.
She nods. I know it.
Their eyes meet, and it is possible that what they see in each other is the eerie inversion of themselves—like coming face-to-face with some bent-up carnival mirror.
She sighs and turns away from him. She goes to the corpse of Bodie and leans down and takes the haft of the butcher knife and tugs hard until it comes loose and slides out from between his ribs. Moses watches her as she hands the knife to him through the bars of his cell.