“That’s amazing,” I mumbled. “What else don’t we know about?”
“You said that you’ve been cooped up for almost two years, so there’s all sorts of stuff that you probably don’t know,” Jason said. “Did you guys know that they tried to re-establish a U.S. government last summer?”
I shook my head and glanced at Alejandro. He hadn’t heard because he was staring intently at Marcus. Every so often he’d tilt his head a little to the side like he was thinking. Jason followed my gaze and said, “Oh yeah, he’s already learning how to do it. Before long they’ll be able to have an entire conversation without looking at each other and we’ll be non-the-wiser.”
“What happened with the government?” I asked.
“Word in the wasteland is that Indianapolis survived the nuclear war intact. The government moved the entire operation there and a large part of what was left of the army. They had almost established order in the city and surrounding area when food started to run out and the troops began fighting with the civilians. Before too long, some big mercenary army from Illinois moved in and wiped ‘em out. Every one of them.”
My head whipped back around at the mention of a mercenary army in Illinois. “Crazy shit, huh?” Jason said, misinterpreting my surprise.
“Where was the army from?” I asked.
“Somewhere in central Illinois. Word is that they have some crazy lady that drives them all over the area fighting everyone for control. She’s making a little kingdom up there.”
Surely it was impossible, but I had to ask. “Do you know her name?” I felt nervous and my voice actually quivered a little.
“Oh, I don’t know. Jennifer? Jessica – Wait that’s it. It’s Jillian. They call themselves ‘Jillian’s Villains’.”
My stomach dropped. That crazy bitch had survived and now she had a legitimate army. “I know her,” I said.
“Oh yeah, sure you do!” Jason said with a slap to my shoulder. “I knew the president before she chopped his head off and mounted it on the hood of her truck too.”
“No, I’m serious,” I said as I shrugged off his hand. “She lived in our town and I was forced to kill her lover Dustin. She left town and somehow ended up with the army that destroyed our community. She tried to kill me the last time I came anywhere near her.” I stopped and thought things over for a second. What if the reason that army from Springfield had even bothered to travel to Virden after they kicked our ass was because she made them go? “And then her group destroyed our town. I just don’t understand how she took power so quickly.”
Jason’s smile never left his lips as he said, “Well, she’s a long way off now and no bother to any of us.” He gestured towards the grill and continued, “Squirrel?”
“No thank you,” I replied sullenly as I tried to shake the knowledge that she was still alive out of my head.
“Ok, your loss,” the merchant replied. “Like I mentioned, we travel around looking for stuff to trade. We’ve currently got a case of working water purification systems, a big stash of double-A batteries that still have a lot of juice in ‘em, some weapons – mostly knives and such – oranges from way down in Mexico, a lot of seasoning spices, three wagons full of canned goods, hell a lot of stuff. What do you need?”
I thought about it for a moment and decided that even though I couldn’t make a decision for the entire town, I did know of a few things that would be helpful. “Balmorhea’s mayor is a man named Pedro Hernandez, so he’d be the one to make all the decisions. I do know that we need medicine and soap or hand sanitizer. Do you have anything like that?” I asked.
“I’ll put soap and sanitizer on our shopping list, but we do have medicine. Standard drugstore stuff like aspirin and cough syrup, but if you want specialized drugs you can talk to Mikey. He’s our resident drug addict and can probably either hook you up with things from his stash or knows where to find it. It’s the only reason we keep the guy around. He was a pharmacist before all this went down, so he’s a walking encyclopedia of helpful shit with medicine when he’s not wasted.”
“Good to know,” I replied. I thought about Balmorhea’s population. Several people were losing their hair, our fingernails were very brittle, most people’s blood didn’t clot very fast after a wound and abnormally dry, cracked skin was prevalent. Maybe it was the radiation, but I was willing to bet that it was some type of vitamin deficiency that we couldn’t make up through our crops alone. “What we really need is multi-vitamins and probably some pain relievers.”
“Mikey!” Jason shouted towards one of the wagons. “Oh, for Pete’s sake! Hold on a minute Chuck.”
With that he stormed over to a wagon and threw open the flap. “He’s always passed out and worthless,” Marcus startled me by saying. “Oh goodie, here he comes,” he finished as he pointed towards Jason who was dragging one of the most pathetic excuses for a human behind him by the arm.
He deposited his cargo in front of me and sat back down on the picnic table. “Here we go Chuck. What was it that you needed from our pharmacy?”