I can’t say that I was pleased to have the girl along, but seeing the relief on her face when after the transaction was complete made me think about this world we were now attempting to reinsert ourselves into. Jackson had been absolutely right in offering to save the girl’s life. But what happens the next time we’re faced with similar choices?
We can’t trade off all of our food and expect to survive the trip back. Sure, the journey was only about four days, but our experience with the harpy and the information that Sergeant Murphy had passed along only confirmed that we really didn’t know what to expect out here. Maybe it was a mistake to leave our town and we should just let the merchants remain the middlemen. I felt in my stomach that something important was going to happen here, but I had no clue what it was.
Alejandro was the first to see the hand snaking under the flap of my backpack. He kicked the man’s hand away and the crowd reaction varied between cheers and vague threats. After the girl’s purchase the locals knew that we had food so we needed to tighten up the security on our packs. “We need to get inside the walls,” I said as I eyed the crowd. I didn’t want Jackson’s good deed to turn ugly.
It took a little bit of work, but Jackson was able to pull the girl up behind him and our horses pushed their way through the crush of bodies. The crowd resisted at first, but we slowly made headway until we broke through continued on our way. The guards at the gate openly laughed at us as we walked by.
“Hey Cara, see that guy finally sold you to these strangers,” one of the men sneered as we walked past. “Oh well, you were a great piece of ass that night. Took it like a champ and kept coming back for more!”
“What the fuck is your problem man?” Jackson yelled at the guard.
“Mind your fucking business kid or else I’m authorized to shoot you on the spot and nobody would give a fuck. I was talking to that tramp behind you.”
Jackson’s face turned three shades of red and he started to go for his rifle. “Jackson!” I yelled. “Let’s just go inside, forget these guys.”
“Yeah, listen to your old man kid. If you pull that rifle out, we’ve got snipers that would explode your head like a watermelon,” the second guard stated. “Leave ‘em alone Chris.”
As one, all of our heads jerked up towards the top of the wall. Sure enough, there was a long barrel peeking over the side aimed directly towards our group. “What the hell is wrong with you man?” Jackson muttered while he took his hand off the rifle’s wooden stock.
“Keep your goddamned mouth shut Chris,” the second guard replied. “I’m sorry folks, welcome to New El Paso. Is this your first time here?”
“Yes, we’re from Bal – “ Something stopped me from divulging where we were from. Maybe it was the desecrated town of Van Horn, maybe it was the fact that we had food while others were starving to death. I wasn’t sure why, but the alarm bells were blaring in my mind.
“We’re from up north,” I continued. “We wanted to assess the trade situation and see about setting up direct trade with the city.”
“What have you got besides a fucking mutie and a whore?” Chris asked.
Without warning the other guard punched him right in the temple. He crumbled like a rag doll. “Sorry about that,” he said with a shrug. “You know how kids are these days, gotta discipline them hard and fast to let them know who’s in charge or else they’ll try to overthrow the government.
“Anyways, welcome to New El Paso. You’ll want to see the Minister of Trade. Go down Main Street – that’s the road you’re on – and there are signs for the ministry.”