Of Innocence and Guilt (part 2 of 14)
Of Innocence and Guilt (part 2 of 14) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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Longhands and Hyle meet.

Of Innocence and Guilt (part 2 of 14)

Haven. Tuki would be there performing the post-mortem. Hyle bit her lip, she must be feeling terrible, Hyle thought, feeling guilt, sorrow, hell knows what else...

Hyle made a mental note to look in on her later. With that thought begun, so much else avalanched into mental plan for the day.

She was thinking about Tuki, then Hyle thought about Longhands and the Devils Own, what reaction would come from them?

She recalled her conversation with Hank 'burned-face' Godsen, how she warned that if he carried out his threat there would be a greater danger from bandits feeling wronged and seeking revenge.

Then what about the other refugees, how were they feeling considering everything that had happened? Then there was the clinic, the school...

As each wagon in her train of thought shunted into the next, and the next, Hyle's mind swam. She braced herself against the whirl in her mind, closing her eyes.

When she opened them, she looked around at the passers-by. They had not seemed to notice her apprehension.

She did notice Harold Johnson though, leaning in the doorway of his store, arms folded, watching her with his customary disdain from across the street.

She turned her back on him and faced the crime scene once more.

Hyle leaned heavily on one of the posts holding up the barrier tape and reassembled the badly shunted consist of her thoughts.

She had Shadwell and the constabulary working on the crime, Tuki and Nurse Maisie in the clinic on the medical side.

Hyle's role became clear to her. It was obvious, she was Mayor. Her job was to consider and contain the political fallout ensuing from Magrat's murder.

Such an event had the possibility to smash deep cracks into the fabric of Hope Springs, to cause distrust and possibly outright animosity between different groups within the town.

It had therefore fallen upon Hyle to make sure the various shockwaves did make matters worse than they were.

So, it was no small amount of trepidation that Hyle felt as she walked down the slope from her car into Longhands' north camp.

As Hyle passed the first yurt, she could see that her arrival had been communicated. Figures appeared in tent and shack doorways, mostly male, which was not a good sign.

On other visits, the women had been equally or more present which afforded a certain amount of vicarious protection. Today was different.

Hyle set her face and a purposeful step. This was not going to be easy.

By the time Hyle reached Longhands' yurt she was aware that a tight semicircle of surly, growling men had formed behind her, well within her comfort zone. Some even within striking distance.

Out of the growling she detected one or two phrases. "She ain't got no gun or nothin'" or "Let's just do her in now.

" However, when on occasion she did look around, the space between herself and the men did increase a little.

"Longhands?" Hyle called out toward the tent. The muttering ceased; silence, except the wind luffing the canvas flap covering the entrance.

Hyle waited patiently. It seemed like an eternity but in reality, probably no more than thirty seconds.

Firstly, two of the lieutenants stepped outside, followed by the frame of Longhands himself. He nodded to Hyle, forcing her to speak first.

"I have come to talk ab...."

"About The Mag Rat?" Longhands interjected, knocking Hyle a little out of her stride.


"Pity, that."

Hyle stopped herself from saying 'What?' just in time. Longhands' reaction was nothing like she expected. His face showed no more reaction than if she had told him a cat had just been run over.

He nonchalantly turned and tied back the door flap of the tent before bringing his attention back to Hyle.

"Of course, you will pay for the damage. Yes?"

Hyle found herself confused at this phlegmatic reply, the speech she had mentally prepared had been derailed and she was struggling to bring her thoughts into focus.

Not only was Hyle surprised, the shuffling behind her increased and closed in. Voices were raised.

"Why don't we just cut her into lumps? One called out.

"Nahh. She's a clone. We should just fuck her senseless and send her back, huh?" Another added.

Hyle felt an intimate muscle contract involuntarily but she forced her face not to show any reaction.

"Shut the fuck up!" Longhands voice boomed out. His lieutenants took a purposeful stride forward. The mob's baying was silenced. Longhands was looking over Hyle's head at the crowd.

"The Mag Rat was drudge for fuck's sake! Who cares? Do you care about drudges? I'm sure if Mayor Troy is going to come up with some generous form of damages.

A few cows, a few sacks of grain, we can forget it, right?"

There followed a cacophony of grumble and the odd shout but Longhands simply turned and ushered Hyle into his home. Hyle followed, relieved to be out of reach of the mob's hands.

Once inside and with the flap firmly closed, Longhands sat and bade Hyle sit with him on the coarse matting. His dark brown eyes sought Hyle's attention. He had it.

"You've got some balls, Mayor Troy. I'll give you that!" His smirking words belied a deeper concern which Hyle detected easily.

"When the news came down, half the camp were about to charge straight up the hill. But I stopped them. They've calmed down a lot since then."

"Thanks." Hyle nodded once.

Longhands went on. "I played down Magrat's importance, I know she was just a drudge but both you and I know how important she was to our futures."

"Absolut. It was a great shock to me too, more than you can imagine. But aside from the tragedy of it all, I was deeply concerned about any reaction from the Devil's Own.

Which is why I came down to talk with you."

Hyle felt more at ease and her mind began again to engage the matter in hand.

At least Longhands' tone was conciliatory away from the mob, more akin to the many discussions they both had shared in the past.

"The constabulary are sparing nothing in their investigations. We will find the killer. I am just so sorry about the wider implications.

It is a set-back but I do not wish a return to reciprocal violence, in fact it makes me want to push forward even more with reform. But first we have to find justice for Magrat.

Can I rely on you to contain your people until we do?"

Longhands straightened his back and drew a deep breath, giving consideration to Hyle's words.

"Mayor Troy, we are reading from the same page, nothing's changed as far as I am concerned. Just so long as you can at the same time ensure nothing else of this kind happens from your side also.

Without sounding like blackmail, which it is not. You should at least send some token of good faith, in the eyes of my people, 'damages' as I said to them, outside.

It will make my job easier to convince the more headstrong among them to hold to my word."

Hyle nodded, "I understand, and yes, I will agree. So long as you promise safe passage for Doctor Troy, and the other two medics who live among you. If that is so, then we have an agreement."

"I agree." Longhands stood up and helped Hyle to her feet, combining that with a handshake. "My lieutenants will escort you to your car."

Hyle summoned all the mayoral dignity she could muster as she followed the lieutenants out of Longhands yurt.

Walking between them, holding herself straight and strong, Hyle hid the relief she felt until she closed the car door and was out if sight, then she sighed, slumping down behind the wheel.

She breathed freely for the first time in more than an hour.

"For helvede. Det var meget bedre end forventet..."

She started the engine and turned the car towards Hope, with any luck, Tuki would be back from Haven by now.

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