Max, who always tried to be polite, couldn’t seem to help but gape up at Bruce. I motioned for him, but it took a few seconds for him to notice, since he kept staring.
I hissed his name, and then finally Max saw me and walked over to me. I put my arm around him, pulling him as close to me as I could without looking really weird about it.
“Sorry to just intrude like this,” Hayley said, smiling at Boden. “But we just needed a bit of rest.”
“And you definitely have the room for us,” Louis said as his eyes searched the room. I couldn’t help but get the feeling that he was casing the joint.
“No, no, it’s not an intrusion,” Boden said. He glanced quizzically at me, and then turned his attention back to our “guests.” Pushing up the sleeves of his fitted black shirt, he stepped toward them. “It’s always good to help out fellow survivors.”
“We’re glad to hear you say that,” Hayley said. “Some people can be so cruel.”
“And selfish,” Louis added.
“Well, um, we try not to be.” Boden smiled thinly at them. “I’m Sergeant Boden of the US Army.”
“Oh, a soldier?” Hayley attempted to look impressed, but it came across as condescending.
I’d never heard Boden introduce himself as soldier before, so I had a feeling he was trying to intimidate them. Let them know that he knew how to kill, and he would have no hesitation doing it again.
“And this is Private Serg.” Boden gestured over to Serg, who had no army training whatsoever.
“Serg?” Louis snickered at that.
“What Louis means is that that’s an unusual name,” Hayley said, trying to correct her comrade. “Are you Russian?”
“Not that I know of,” Serg replied. “I was born and raised in America. That’s how I, uh, ended up joining the army.”
“There’s not much of an army anymore, though, is there?” Hayley wrinkled her nose. She’d walked over to the couch and rubbed the back of it, almost petting it.
“I mean, it’s really just the two of you, ain’t it?” Louis smirked and gestured between Boden and Serg. “For all intents and purposes, that’s all that’s left of the US Army.”
“You’re right.” Boden put his hands on his hips and glanced back at Serg. “We’re not much of an army.” He turned back to Louis and Hayley, smiling as genuinely as he could. “That’s why it’s great that you’re here. It’s so good to commune with others since there’s so few of us left.”
“Right,” Serg chimed in. “We’ve got to help each other out.”
“That is what we’re always saying,” Hayley said.
“You know what? I have a great idea,” Boden said excitedly, as if something had just occurred to him. “We have a bottle of vodka downstairs. I could get it, and we could all have a drink to celebrate. How does that sound?”
Louis, Hayley, and Bruce all looked at each other, and they looked quite pleased, like they were getting away with something. Louis especially looked like the cat that’d gotten the canary, and they all chuckled.
“Yeah,” Hayley said, trying not to laugh as she spoke for the group. “That sounds great.”
“Max, why don’t you go up to your room?” I suggested. “You’re too young to drink anyway.”
I thought he might fight me, because he hated to be left out of things, but he didn’t. He just sighed and trudged away. He had to walk past our guests on his way to the stairs, and Hayley reached out and ruffled his hair as he went by. I had to use all my restraint to keep from going over there and ripping her arm off.
“Excellent.” Boden clapped his hands together. “I’ll be right back with the alcohol.”
Boden turned and went downstairs. We had a few bottles of wine off the kitchen, but I knew for a fact that we had no vodka in the house. So I had no idea what Boden was getting in the basement, but I hoped it would help the situation.
Serg and I stood off to the side of the room, waiting for Boden to return, since the guests seemed to fill up the living room. They’d spread out through it, claiming their space already.
None of them talked to us, but Hayley whispered something in Louis’s ear that made him laugh uproariously. He looked at me as he laughed, and it sent a chill down my spine.
“You know what, I’m sorry,” Boden said as he ascended the stairs. “We’re completely out of vodka.”
Then he turned at the top of the stairs, coming out so we could all see him and the crossbow he was carrying. He had it pointed at the ceiling so far, but it was locked and loaded. Bruce growled, and Hayley gasped at the sight of it.
“But I did find this awesome crossbow,” Boden finished.
“Oy!” Louis held up his hands and took a step back. “There’s no need for that!”
“But…” Hayley looked genuinely distressed and confused, and her eyes darted around the room, before settling back on Boden so she could plead with him. “You said you wanted help! We survivors need to join together!”
“I lied.” Boden shrugged. “I don’t trust any of you, and I want you to get the hell out of my house.”
Something about that incensed Louis. He shook his head and swore under his breath. He made a move toward Boden, so Boden dropped the crossbow, pointing it directly at him.
“This isn’t your house!” Louis snapped, but he stopped. “You have no more right to this house than we do!”
“We found it first,” Boden said simply. “That makes it ours, and that makes you intruders.”
“We’re not intruders. We just want …” Hayley started off begging, but when she saw she wasn’t getting anywhere, she changed her strategy entirely.
She’d been leaning on the couch, but she stood up straight. Her expression had been desperate and plaintive, but it shifted to hard anger.
“I’ve walked too far and too long to let something like this go to a couple whiny bitches like you,” Hayley said. “I am not going back out there. So you can either leave now, or we can do this the hard way.”
“The hard way it is then,” Boden said and took aim with the crossbow.
They really didn’t expect him to fire. I didn’t know why not, except that they’d probably been able to prey on the kindness of strangers before. With so few survivors left, it was easy to want to stick together.