David looked down at her.
"What do you mean, worms found her? What worms?"
In exasperation, Finny wrenched her hand from his and looked at him like he was an idiot.
"Worms is a boy. He got sick from the dead baby."
Joe joined in.
"So, the little girl had typhoid?"
Now it was Joe's turn to come under fire from Finny's frustrated frown.
She pointed behind her in what she hoped was the right direction.
"There's a load of hospital tents where all the sick people are."
Joe turned to David, and his eyebrows asked if this was true.
David shifted his feet uncomfortably.
"Well, yes. There are a few people showing the symptoms of typhoid fever."
A voice from behind him spoke more to the point.
"And a few more of them in holes in the ground." The words were accompanied by an unhappy murmur.
David turned to them, lifting his hands to quieten the undertone of anger and fixing certain people in the crowd of refugees with a meaningful stare.
The murmuring died away, and David turned back to Joe.
"We've been trying to get antibiotics in the city so we can carry on to Papermill. Quietly, though, so as not to tip the townies off."
Joe applied this new knowledge to the recent daily scenes of Fugees being rounded up and expelled from New Flagstaff. It made a sad sense.
"Why didn't you just go to the Union... Never mind." He knew the answer before he even finished the question. If the Union knew the Fugees had typhoid, they would have been chased away.
And there would likely have been casualties. It had happened before.
Joe scratched his bald spot.
In the pause, Finny beckoned Casper and Onetooth towards her. Onetooth just wrenched his hand out of that of the grown-up holding him, glad to get his fingers away from the man's clammy grip.
Casper, being Casper, apologised to the man who held his hand and then excused himself before slipping away to join his friends.
Once they were together, Finny led them, as nonchalantly as she knew how, across the road to stand behind Joe.
To be exact, Finny led them to a point just out of Joe's arms reach because, well, better to be safe than risk a clip round the back of the head.
Joe watched the three sidle across the road while he continued to massage his noggin. Then he turned his attention back to the leader of the Fugees.
"So. You need antibiotics, right?"
"Sure. I mean, yes.
Our medics have told me that typhoid is pretty treatable with antibiotics, but we just don't have anywhere near enough to even treat the cases we have,
never mind the ones which might still be incubating amongst the rest of us."
This caused another rising murmur among the refugees behind him.
Joe took note of the hint of fear and desperation in the faces of the, so far, fit and well adults and children on the other side of the road.
Then Joe stopped scratching his head. He lowered his shotgun from his shoulder, and it disappeared into the folds of the duster.
As if this was a signal, his people lowered their own weapons so that they no longer pointed at those opposite them.
With a flick of his head, Joe invited David to walk with him down the dusty road and away from the crowd. Once out of earshot, Jo turned to stand facing David.
"The Union isn't going to help you, nor are the kind and generous citizens of New Flagstaff. You know that, don't you?"
After a second's thought, David had to nod his agreement. The refugees had passed through many towns on their journey north. The reception had always been the same... Keep moving.
"And, thanks to little miss blabbermouth back there, as soon as my guys get back to town it's going to become common knowledge that your camp has typhoid.
That's going to be bad, and I think you've already guessed that by all the packing up that's going on." Joe waited for another confirming nod before going on.
"I, on the other hand, can get you all the antibiotics you need. Not only that, I can make sure the Union leave you alone, as long as you leave immediately that is."
"What about the townies? It doesn't take much to get a mob riled up."
"My people will make sure nobody gets to you until you're far enough out of town that any mob loses interest."
David listened. The gangster's offer was everything he and his people needed just now. But he was savvy enough to know there was going to be a price.
"This all sounds very wonderful, Mister...?"
Joe automatically produced a business card.
"Spivey. Joe Spivey. Spivey's Independent Traders."
David took the card and pocketed it without a glance.
"Mister Spivey then. Like I said, what you are offering sounds wonderful, as I know you realise. So, what is the price going to be for all this generosity?"
Joe jammed his cigar between his teeth and grinned.
"You're going to Papermill, you say. Joining the migration up there? Opening up the place?"
David nodded again. Papermill was an almost deserted town, a readymade settlement set deep in a lush and valuable forest resource. Just waiting for a population.
But there was a reason for it being empty.
The forest was inhabited by some really nasty predators, amongst them being the gigantic mutated ticks that could suck the blood from a man's body in less than a minute.
And they were everywhere around the little town.
"That's right." David had a feeling he knew where this conversation was going.
Joe took the cigar from his mouth and moved closer into the refugee leader's personal space.
"That's very brave of you, taking on the forest like that. You're going to need help. Tools, supplies, guns and ammunition... all kinds of things."
"And you want us to give you extra consideration when we look for tenders to provide us with those supplies."
"Not quite mister, whatever your name is..."
"North. David North."
"Not quite, mister North. You see, I've just given you my tender. This is it.
Antibiotics and safe passage away from New Flagstaff in return for which, Spivey's Independent Traders becomes the sole...
And I do mean sole supplier of everything your expedition is going to want or need." He paused to re-insert the cigar between his teeth. "Do we have a deal?"
David wanted to look back over his shoulder. At the people he was trying to lead to a better life than most of them had ever known.
But he couldn't take his eyes away from the shark-like grin of the little gangster in front of him.
He weighed the alternatives, then saw in the stained and crooked teeth that there really were none.
"Yes. We have a deal."
Finny had been watching. She saw the two men shake hands.
Awwww, that's nice, she thought. They've made friends.