The Archer came back out after he pulled on his pants and socks. His shoulders were a testament to the skills he had with a bow as he carried a dark-gray polo shirt over his right shoulder.
He sat down by the armored glass and looked out, pulling on heavy black boots.
“Any changes outside?”
“None.” Al said as he surveyed with a pair of binoculars he had found. “It has been quiet, what can be seen, however, there is some movement six intersections distant heading away from the water, but I don’t have a view down towards the marina, it could be a Grateful Dead party down there for all I know.”
The redheaded Yank chuckled grimly and started to pull the polo shirt on over his head.
“Archer?” Stormy asked. “The tattoo you have on your chest? I recall seeing it before. I needed to think about it for a moment, but I remember you.”
“My tattoo?” He touched his chest. The Celtic heart with the black lightning bolt across it had been there so long, he had forgotten about it.
“You are T.H. Harte. The U.S. Olympic Archer that took the team to the finals, they said your form was all wrong, but it kept working for you. I helped sponsor you. My firm bought your equipment, and some bows. Three of them if I remember.”
“He is… you are Thunder Harte?” Al blinked, looking from Stormy to the Archer. “He wrote a few books and is the host of the outdoor channel’s show “Against all odds”. Wow!”
Archer looked down and gave a heavy sigh. The sound of a man haunted by ghosts and tortured by a shattered soul.
“Yes, yes, and yes, I was Thunder Harte. But I cannot use that name anymore. I’m no longer that man.”
“You have a family. Your son is one of the youngest to ever qualify for the U.S. Olympic Archery team.” Rachel said. “There was a legal challenge about minors in the sport.”
Yes, I opposed him being pushed into the sport by the media. Their attitude was beyond the pale and I filed a lawsuit for invasion of privacy. It was his choice and his choice alone.”
“You keep talking about him in the past tense.” Al pointed out, his three-decades of police skills coming to the fore.
“Yeah,” Archer said softly, as if he did and did not want to talk about it. It was a wound that still made his soul bleed and began to pour out of him as if he could not stop his words. “We were overrun by those shuffling nightmares. So, my wife and son took shelter in a quiet, dark house and I drew off the mob by using fire bombs and a shotgun. There was a minor problem, and then my son came out to help, the courage of a pre-teen. ” Archer took a deep breath as if to clear his soul. “They caught him and began to drag him off. My wife ran out with a stick to beat them away and they grabbed her too.”
He choked and his knuckles turned white as he squeezed the edge of the desk, the veins stood out in his forearms and neck. A man about to scream in agony.
“I was a half-block away, semi-auto shotgun was stovepipe-jammed and I had the bow and four jars of turpentine.” The deep sound of a heart breaking sob came out of the one they called Archer. “It took too long to clear the jam, the shotgun wouldn’t cycle so I could clear a path. Then I finally cleared the jam and needed to eject another shell before I could jump back in the fight. But I was too late.”
He took another deep sigh as he pulled himself together.
“I shot them both.” He said quietly, almost inaudibly. “It was the best I could do. They were both bloodied already and I believed it was a virus at the time.”
“You didn’t know about the vampires.” Rachel said, showing her less stormy side.
“No. I could have saved them.” Archer drew a breath and looked out the window. “I failed them. I killed my family and there is no deeper Hell than what I’m in. I couldn’t even bury them.”
“I’m no longer a Harte.” He said in a strangled voice, anguish showed his face as he covered his eyes as if to blind himself to a vision remembered. “I have no name. Just… Archer. It is well enough of a name.”
“You will need to forgive yourself, you will need time to find your way.” Gail said, putting a hand gently on his shoulder. “You need to put this behind you, the world has nearly come to an end.”
“Forgive?” Archer shook his head. “No. I should live with this forever. There is no forgiveness for what I did, I failed them, then I killed them.”
From his quiver, he pulled a plastic baggy that contained locks of hair.
“I cut some hair from their heads after I drove the zombies back. The blond is his and this, ” He reached in the bag and touched a lock of red hair. “Is from my wife.”
“Compared to my hair, she is more of an orange color, but she was a warrior from the north of Glasgow. By the time I got to her, they had bitten and severely tore her up, but she had given better than she taken. Bodies lay with their heads stove in all around her.” Archer stroked both locks of hair as if there was some magic in them. Magic that he could not unlock, but refused to let go.
He rolled the plastic baggy up and put it back into a pocket in his quiver and closed the flap.
“Let’s hunt up something with working radios that won’t draw a crowd.” Gail said softly, taking her hand from Archer’s shoulder and stroking his hair. “Down by the marina, we can put to sea, zombies are not able to sneak up or mob us. I would bet the long dead ones would sink anyway.”
“Let’s pack up.” Archer said. Anything to draw attention away from him.
They were ready in moments and formed up under the watchful eye of Al.
The group headed out in the practiced cover pattern that Sergeant Frobisher had taught them to do.