Baird watched Amy closely at dinner. He didn't know what Bernie had told her or what she meant by "a lot more than just rape" but he got a nauseating twist in his stomach whenever he considered it. Whatever Bernie had said or done, it did the trick. Amy was still quiet and shy but she was definitely more relaxed. She didn't even flinch when he reached across her, rudely as Bernie pointed out, to get the bowl of stir fry June and Jacob had whipped together. She even smiled at Bernie's story about him which he suspected Cole had told her.
"You're awfully quiet, Blondie." Bernie commented after the laughter had died down.
"Yeah, I was tuning you out." He muttered distractedly.
"You mean you finally learned how to do that?" Bernie broke out into a huge grin "I guess having kids has taught you something. Well done, children! You have accomplished what few grown men had dared to dream!"
Baird rolled his eyes at the chorus of thank-you's from the traitorous kids. After dinner Kaylee managed to coax Amy out into the back yard, it was the first time the girl had been outside since she had arrived. June was teaching Jacob; they had their own little home school system that Baird was content to leave them to. That left him and Bernie to clean up the dishes.
"You've become a real luminary around here. Seems you're responsible for just about every technological feat accomplished." Bernie said as she dried. Baird snorted at the wording. It was a technological resurrection at best, but they were still a century behind.
"I heard you set up the running water in almost the whole town."
"Apparently, they don't pay me enough." He muttered snidely.
"What do you mean?"
"Yeah I set up the running water. When I got here the only person who had running water was the mayor, or leader, or god king pharaoh, whatever he's calling himself. He wasn't interesting in sharing with the rest of the town so I set up my own system. When he found out he wanted me to set up the whole town. So I did and you know what thanks I get? He sent me a water bill! A frigging water bill!"
"Can he even do that?" Bernie asked incredulously.
"Apparently, because it's his well or something." Baird said in his mocking whiny tone. "So you know what I did? I turned off his water. No one could figure out how I did it or how to turn it back on. They threatened to turn off my water but they couldn't figure out how."
"You're right, they don't pay you enough."
"Yeah, but they need me, and they know it, and they hate it, and that's almost satisfying enough. Almost."
"Well, you'll be happy to hear that the COG greatly regrets kicking you out."
"That's does make me happy. Are you here to beg me to come back?"
"No, but when they come to their senses I will happily refuse to do it and make them come and beg on their knees."
"I'd like that, I'd really like that."
"It's a really good thing you're doing, taking care of those kids. Most kids don't stand a chance these days if they don't have someone to protect them - that's actually why I'm here."
"Oh really?" Baird had been reluctant to bring that up, he really didn't want to see the look on Bernie's face if she had to tell him that she couldn't tell civvies. He would never admit it but he missed being a gear.
"Yeah, some gang has been targeting kids. At first we thought they were recruiting, or using them to get their parents to join, but it doesn't add up any more. They're just slaughtering them." Bernie paused. She had to close her eyes and take a few deep breathes. "It's been pretty gruesome. For some reason they don't appear to be active in this town. I'm here to find out why."
There was a muffled thunk as the plate Baird had been washing slipped out of his hands and into the sink. He hadn't realized he had stopped scrubbing it. That nauseating twist in his gut felt like it was clawing up his throat. He had to take several deep breaths before he was calm enough to finish scrubbing the plate.
"So you think what happened to Amy might be related?"
Bernie shrugged, "Maybe, or it could be completely unrelated, I promise I'll let you know as soon as I know anything." She gave him a reassuring pat on the back.
"I hate waiting," he muttered.
"I know." She said sympathetically. During his years as a gear Baird always had something to do. Even if he couldn't contribute directly to a task he always had something to fix which he knew would be useful later, like Jack. Mostly Jack, he thought.
"Isn't there something I can do?" he asked restlessly.
"Officially, no, but that never stopped you before."
Bernie invited herself to stay the night with the promise of making breakfast in the morning. Baird was glad he had decided to take the next day off. He was scared to leave the kids alone, especially after what had happened at work. Plus, he wanted to actually sleep in for once. That didn't happen though. In the early morning hours Baird woke up to someone pounding on the door. Rolling off the couch - Bernie had taken his room with Amy - he trudged irritably to the door. Putting on his 'this had better be pretty friggen important' face he pulled open the door to reveal William.
"What?" Baird Barked
"There's been another death." He said nervously. "Several, actually. Alex and his whole family, they were slaughtered in their house this morning."
Baird sighed, "Alright, wait here." He closed the door and went to wake up Bernie.
"Hey Granny, wake up!" he hissed into his dark room.
"What's the matter?" She grumbled groggily.
"We have a mystery on our hands."
"Can't it wait?"
"Sure, if you don't mind letting a serial killer wander around finding his next victim, then by all means, go back to sleep."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm getting up." There was movement in the dark and suddenly Bernie was before him, she pushed him out of the door way,
"I have to get dressed, get out."
In five minutes they were out the door with William leading the way.
The scene was pretty gruesome. Whoever it was seemed to be trying to compete with the locust, Baird thought, though it was still no contest. Several of Baird's clients were milling around discussing the scene. Since they had the most fire power in the little town then were the self appointed investigators of all crimes, especially crimes involving Baird's people.
"Looks like someone is targeting your employees" One of the farmers-gone-cop said to Baird.
"Looks like it," Baird agreed.
"We'll arrange protection for the rest, and we will catch whoever is doing this."
Baird nodded absently; he was watching Bernie examine the remains. Of all the people in the room Bernie probably knew her way around a corpse the best.
When she was done she motioned at him to follow her out.
"This looks like the same work as the gang. Tell me everything you know about this guy." She said when they were alone.
Baird shrugged, "I didn't really know him. You should ask June."
Bernie nodded "I will. In the mean time don't start anything new and set up a communication system with the rest of your crew that only they have access to and tell them to report anything suspicious."
"Yeah, alright," he agreed. He left Bernie to do whatever else she had to do and went to find the remaining members of his team. Setting up a com system just for them wouldn't be too complicated; it would only take him a few hours.
When he finally got back home he found Amy sitting on the couch by herself.
"Where are the kids?" he asked, not really expecting a reply.
"Bernie took them out." Amy said quietly.
"Oh," Baird sat down next to her.
"You didn't want to go?"
She shook her head. "What happened?"
"A guy from my team and his family were murdered." He said before thinking it might not be a good idea to tell her. It was too late though; she closed her eyes and shuddered.
"Yeah, my point exactly," he sighed. They sat in silence. It was times like these he wished he had a TV; he could barely stand talking to people he did know let alone this girl who could barely stand to be around him. Then again that was how most people seemed to feel about him, they usually just told him to go away. Amy muttered something that broke him out of this train of thought.
"What?" he asked.
"Thanks," she repeated staring fixedly at her lap, "for saving my life and keeping me safe."
"Oh," he said surprised. He wasn't use to being thanked, "yeah, you're welcome."
"I um, that is…I don't really have anywhere else to go, so…" She trailed off. It took Baird a full ten seconds to realize what she was trying to say.
"I'm not going to kick you out." He reassured her, "Not after all the trouble I went through."
"You might." She said dolefully, "I have to tell you something."
Baird was suddenly on high alert. What have I gotten myself into this time?
"Unless you're going to tell me that the locust are back and are trying to make you their new queen or something, it can't be that bad."
"Well besides that," she said with a slight smile, then she become serious. "They're never going to stop trying to get to me. Whoever that guy was who broke in knows where I am, he'll tell the others. They'll come after me."
Baird processed this for a few seconds.
"Why?" he said finally.
"Because I can lead you to them."
Alrighty then. I would like to thank my new beta reader teradanielle for being my beta, you should all thank her too because now my chapters should be more readable and generally better. And thanks to anyone who reviewed or even just read, you rock my toe socks.