Kevin had also solved the mystery of the power at the fort never going down. Evidently a crew was manning the power station with the mall running regular supplies out to them. It was a reminder that the fort was not as cut off as they had originally thought.
The people of the mall kept stealing looks at them. Others just stared openly. Though several people seemed to be working hard at mopping, he noted they were actually spending more time watching them.
The light spilling through the enormous skylight above was somewhat comforting. All the mall doorways were blacked out. Travis supposed it was to keep the people from seeing the hordes of zombies outside. He had been horrified when he had seen the sheer number. How the soldiers had kept them at bay so long was beyond him. As the helicopter had swung over the mall, he had felt his chest tighten with fear. He had gripped Katie’s hand even tighter.
He madly loved her and their baby growing in her womb. They were his life and he realized he would do anything to protect them. Yet, here they were, at the mall, and his rationale not to fight with Katie over her decision was based on his dream about Lydia.
He wasn’t sure if it was the wisest thing to put stock in a dream about a ghost, but somehow he believed it had revealed a vital truth.
“It’s so rough here,” Jenni said to Katie. “There was no hope before Bill and I told them about the fort. FEMA just abandoned them at the rescue center and the Senator is a total bitch.”
“Yeah, I know. I’ve met her more than once. She plays the political game very well, but after three glasses of wine, she made it pretty clear how bigoted she can be. Of course, that was back when she was just a city council member. She gave me hell over Lydia,” Katie answered. “She had a real issue with ‘special rights’ for gays as she put it. She couldn’t see that we just wanted the same rights as everyone else.”
“She’s a total bigot. She makes the Mexicans go and do chores outside.
See that guy over there. His name is Miguel. He told me that she said in English in front of him that the Mexicans shouldn’t get any assistance since they are not American citizens. The Major General overruled her since the Mexicans do chores too, but then she stuck them outside. She’s such an idiot. She didn’t realize Miguel is Texas born and speaks fluent English. She treats all the Hispanics like border jumpers.” Jenni made a face and shook her head. “Like even that should make a difference.”
Bill leaned in. “Nothing here is right. It’s a hellhole.”
Katie sighed. “I wish Dad would come down. I want to see he is doing okay.”
“I’m sure he will come see you as soon as he hears you are here,” Travis assured her.
Katie smiled anxiously. “I know, I just want to see him.”
At the top of the escalator a throng of suited men and a woman appeared.
Everyone was in drab colors except the Senator who was dressed in a bright red coatdress. Her blond hair fluffed around her head. She descended with a large smile on her face. Travis noted that the woman was wearing diamonds in her ears and they flashed as she moved.
Slowly, he stood up, Katie rising as well. Jenni reluctantly stood, but Bill remained seated.
“Welcome to the Madison Mall Rescue Center,” the Senator said. She walked up to them, extending her hand. “I’m Senator Paige Brightman.”
“Travis Buchanan and my wife, Katie,” Travis answered, shaking her hand briefly. It felt dry and cold.
“Katie?” The Senator raised a thin eyebrow. “Katie Kiel?” She laughed a bright, amused smile. “I see you came back to the other side of the fence.”
“Oh, I see. I’m sorry,” the Senator answered in a tone that Travis pegged as false. She looked toward Travis and gave him a wink. “But you found a strapping handsome man I see.”
He could see Katie’s eyes glittering with anger and unexpected tears. He took her hand gently to soothe her.
“And I was lucky enough to find a wonderful woman who has a heart open enough to love without discrimination,” Travis responded.
The Senator raised both eyebrows and laughed. “Or there just weren’t any other lesbians around, huh?”
“My personal life is not at issue here, Senator,” Katie said coldly.
“No, no, it’s not. But it is a shame about Lydia. She was one of the best interior designers in Texas.”
Travis tightened his grip on Katie’s hand to keep her from punching the Senator.
A tall man, with white hair and an imposing face, pushed through the Senator’s entourage closely followed by Kevin. Silently, without a word, he shoved the Senator aside and gathered Katie up into his arms.
“Dad,” Katie whispered. The tears that had threatened to spill before now streamed down her face. “Dad.”
The white haired man, who Travis now realized was Bruce Kiel, kissed Katie’s cheek and held her tightly. “Katie-girl, it’s so good to see you.”
Despite his very intimidating exterior, the man was weeping.
“Dad, I can’t believe you’re here,” Katie said in a happy voice and kissed his cheek.
“I’m so sorry about Lydia, baby,” Bruce said.
“I know, Dad,” Katie answered. She reached out to grab Travis’ arm. “I want you to meet Travis, Dad. He’s my husband now.”
There are moments you wonder about. Where will you find your life mate? How will you know it’s her? How will you feel when you meet her family? Jenni, his sort of sister in law, had been hard enough to deal with at times, but when Bruce Kiel fastened ice blue eyes on Travis it scared him almost shitless. Then the stern man smiled, took his hand and pumped it in a handshake.
“Good to meet you, son,” Bruce said in his deep voice. “If Katie chose you, you have to be one helluva person. She’s a connoisseur of the best people.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you and find out that you survived,” Travis answered, feeling a bit overwhelmed.
“And see, she’s having a baby!” Jenni couldn’t keep out of it any longer and patted Katie’s swelling belly.
Bruce grinned and put his hand gently on his daughter’s stomach. “I’m thrilled, Katie.”
His wife’s smile was rapturous. Travis felt pleased and awkward at the same time to be in the presence of her father and what remained of her former life. He suddenly felt nervous about how he compared to Lydia and wondered what Bruce thought of him.
“Not to interrupt such a wonderful family reunion,” the Senator said in her Texas drawl, “but there are certain matters of great importance to be discussed.”
Bruce looked toward Kevin. The black man slightly inclined his head and stepped closer to Travis.
“Okay. Where should we all talk? My daughter is here, so let’s get to it.”
A crowd of people were now gathering and the Senator gave then her best campaign smile. “Why don’t we go upstairs to my office. The Major General is waiting for us.”
Travis watched Kevin anxiously. There was tension in the other man’s face and Travis could feel his own nerves twitching. The time was growing near.
“Very well,” Katie said. “Let’s get this over with.”
“Agreed,” the Senator agreed. “Let’s go into my office.”
“..said the spider to the fly,” Jenni whispered from behind Travis and a chill flowed down his back.
As Katie walked up the frozen escalator, she could feel the eyes of the hundred or so people gathered in the corridor below staring up at her. The irony of the rescue center being a mall made her smile slightly. And of course, Kevin was a black hero. Romero would be proud.
That she was a blond, pregnant woman was also amusing to her. But unlike the heroine of Dawn of the Dead, she was a former prosecutor that had no issue stepping up to the plate. She would not stand by and wait for the men to make the difficult choices. Add in that she was bisexual and she was pretty much blowing the stereotype.
Katie could see the strain in Travis’ face and knew he was worried sick.
Every time she looked at him, his gaze seemed to wrap around her protectively. She loved him and he loved her. That gave her strength.
Strangely, Lydia being brought up by the Senator had given her strength as well. The memory of her wife made her feel more determined and strong. There was no way she was going to let the Senator enslave these people. They deserved a chance to have a good life. A chance Lydia never had.
She caught sight of her own reflection in a mirror set into the side of a storefront. She saw that her jaw was set and her gaze determined. Her blond curls fell in a tumble to her shoulders and her swollen belly rounded out her green sweater. She looked flushed and strong. That made her smile a bit more.
Entering the office behind the Senator, she saw a military man seated behind the desk. He vacated his spot to the Senator and Katie remembered that Kevin had pegged this man as someone who had joined the military to enhance his political resume. The Senator took her seat as her smarmy campaign manager took up his place behind her chair.