25 Chapter 24: Mending the Fences with Madalyn and Punishment Fit for a Fool
When Joshua, Laura, and Madalyn arrived back at camp the scene ahead of them was both a bit terrifying and impressive. Outside of the front gate, bodies of dead zombies could be seen piled up inside the four ditches near the entrance. There were a few zombies that had made it passed the line of defense, but were laid dead on the grown with arrows sticking out of their heads. The front gates were open as some of the farmers were out front moving the dead bodies out of the way and making sure to stab the heads of any zombies that might still be alive.
Soon the people that were out front cleaning up the scene took notice of Joshua and his group's approach. At first they were ready to rush over and tell him what had been going on, but when they saw Madalyn following along they froze in place. At first they had looks of fear at seeing someone who had killed a member of their group, but those looks of fear quickly turned into guilt ridden half smiles. There upbeat attitude at their victory became far more subdued as they finally came near.
"We're glad you guys are alright. I hope things on your end wasn't too bad." One of the men said as he tried to put on a welcoming smile.
"Yeah were glad your back. Natalie told us how you guys were leading a large amount of the hoard away to minimize the amount that made it here. It wasn't too bad with the amount we had here, but if too many of them had come through then they probably would have gotten past the ditches and started damaging the fence." The other man said.
Joshua nodded and was about to respond when Natalie, Thomas and all three of the Carsen brothers came running out from behind the gate. "You guys made it back in one piece. I'm happy to see it." Dillon said with a big smile as he smacked his two brothers on the back as they approached.
"It's good to see you guys pulled through alright as well. It seems that our tactics paid off on a hoard of that scale." Joshua said as he looked over the dead bodies.
"Yep they never even got a chance to put a dent in the fence. Some of them got up to the gate but we were able to poke them down with the spears up close." Dave said as he pushed his brothers arm that was trying to wrap him in a hug off of him. "How about you guys, how did it go on your end?"
"It went well. I was able to lure more than half of them away into a trap that Laura and Madalyn set up. We were able to take them all out in one big explosion." Joshua said with a grin causing the others to look at him in disbelief.
"Sounds about right. We're over here struggling for half an hour to hold the line while our fearless leader gets to blow them all up in one move." Devin whined before glaring at Dillon who had now aimed all his efforts of hugging towards him. While most of the group was happily enjoying the victory Thomas was looking guiltily towards Madalyn as he struggled to find the right words to say. At first Madalyn was ignoring him, but after feeling his eyes on her for so long she turned her attention towards him and stared him down.
"I just, I wanted to apologize for everything that I and anyone else in this town has done to either bring harm or disrespect you." Thomas said as he bowed his head low in Madalyn's direction. "Although I do not condone killing I can understand why things had come down to that in the end. If people like me had been doing their job from the start then none of this would have happened in the first place."
The other people in the surroundings grew quiet as they watched the scene. All the farmers in the area that were close enough to see what was going on also started to bow their heads. The three Carsen brothers just stood to the side with Natalie sense they were never involved in the first place, but Dave glared down any of the farmers that were hesitating to bow along with the others. While all of this was happening Joshua turned and smiled at Madalyn who had a look of surprise on her face before she finally calmed down and reacted. "Fine, I'll forgive you guys as long as we're stuck in this situation, but after this is over I never want to see any of you again." Madalyn said before walking past the group into the mansion grounds.
"Whelp, that went better than expected." Joshua said while smiling so hard his bright white teeth almost seemed to be shinning. Laura looked at him for a moment before shaking her head and heading on inside the camp herself to catch a breather after the long run over. Joshua looked at his surroundings for a moment before changing the topic. "Well if the zombies actually made it all the way here then I'm assuming those kids made it back right?"
Dave seemed to bristle up with anger for a moment as he snorted. "Only one of them made it back. It was that Jacob brat that came all the way here and lead them right to our doorstep." He said while gritting his teeth.
"Well we'll have to deal with that as a group after we clean this mess up." Joshua said before Natalie tapped him on the shoulder.
"I don't think that's going to be an issue." Natalie said as she pointed towards the corpses grabbing everyone's attention. When Joshua turned to look he saw that all of the dead bodies of the zombies were starting to crumble into fine purple dust that was soon blown up into the air. After a few minutes all of the bodies in the area disappeared in the same way as the wind slowly cleared up the aftermath.
"Well that's interesting. I hope it doesn't come back to bite us in the ass later." Joshua said as the others all nodded in agreement. "Well for now let's all head in and lock up the gate. We've got some issues to discuss." The group headed inside and were getting everyone that was busy checking out the fence line to gather up and prepare for a meeting. While people were getting ready Natalie had told Joshua everything about what had happened with Nathan and the fact that he was beaten so badly had enraged him even more than the fact that the three fools were too stupid to lead the zombies away from camp. At first Joshua was thinking of going to get Nathan to join the meeting, but decided to let the poor kid get some rest and tell him about what happened later.
After everyone had gathered at the main entrance hall Joshua was ready to start the meeting. He looked around the room and was able to see a few looks of confusion on people like the Mayor at the sight of Madalyn so he decided to deal with that problem right away. "Alright, now that everyone has gathered here we can begin to discuss some issues, but before we talk about the defense situation I want to get one thing clear. Madalyn will be staying with us as it is obviously not safe for one person to try to survive on their own right now. I know that her killing George may have put her on shaky ground around most of you, but I don't think I need to bring up how I feel about how every one of you handled the situation in the first place."
The room was completely silent as most of the people looked away in shame especially Mayor Clark who was more responsible for the situation then just about anyone else other than Thomas. "Good, now that we have that cleared up I want to say that I'm proud of how you guys handled the situation. Dave and Natalie filled me in and I don't think I could have done it any better myself." Joshua said with a smile helping dissipate the building tension.
"It wasn't just us. You leading away most of the zombies was a big part of the reason why we could handle the situation so well." Thomas said gaining nods from the others.
"Well it's still good to see that the predicament wasn't too much for you guys to handle. Although there are a few things we can improve going forward to handle bigger hoards in the future, we'll start working on that tomorrow. Right now we have a bigger issue to deal with." Joshua said as he waived towards Dave who signaled towards his two brothers. Devin and Dillon were each holding an arm of the handcuffed Jacob who they quickly dragged towards the middle of the room. "Here is the cause of our troubles."
Jacob looked around the room at all the cold eyes that were glaring at him. His first urge was to glare back, but he held it in and instead acted pitiful and what he probably imagined was apologetic. "I'm sorry for leading them here, but I had no choice. While my two friends and I were out scouting for supplies we came across that large hoard on a road not too far away from here. They…they must have been attracted to the sound of us breaking in a window to get inside a house." He said as his eyes looked around at people at random pleadingly.
"There are already multiple problems with your story." Joshua said as anger started to build up in him, but he kept his composure and calmly started explaining the inconsistencies with his story one at a time. "First off the fact that you and your friends had beaten up Nathan and locked him in a closet before leaving."
"It was just a bad reaction to something he said to us. We thought he was getting a bit full of himself and took it badly. I'm sorry we reacted that way, but he wasn't exactly innocent either." Jacob tried to explain without showing his anger at the situation.
"Even if he cursed your mother you shouldn't have beaten him so badly let alone tried to hide him away so no one would find out in time. The only reason for you guys to hide him away in the first place was because you were up to something you didn't want others to know about and he most likely found out." Joshua replied before looking over towards Natalie.
"That is correct. When we were searching the area for Rick's and Matthew's bodies to put them out of their misery and not allow them to turn into zombies we found this." Natalie replied as she pulled out a torn up bag and set it on a table in front of everybody. The bag was covered in blood, but you could still see its contents. There was a large amount of weed which caused everyone in the room to frown. "Although the body was hard to recognize we were able to make out the remains of Rick, and found this stash of weed under the back of his shirt."
"So not only did you beat up a fellow member of the group, you also snuck out without letting anyone know only to go find weed. Judging by how out of your minds you three looked when I first saw you guys running away from the zombies I can assume you all had already been smoking before the run in with the hoard." Joshua said causing some surprise from the accused.
"How did you know where we were?" Jacob said letting a little bit of his anger show on his face. "You saw us in trouble and didn't even help?! Some leader you are." He nearly shouted, but he had what looked like almost a smug expression at his last remark. Even now Jacob was trying to fight for the leader position as if he could turn those around him against Joshua.
"Oh I was there. I arrived as you and Rick left Matthew behind as he was attacked and swarmed by the zombies. While you guys rushed off into the forest I lured more than half of the zombies away to deal with elsewhere." Joshua said as he stared Jacob down. For a moment Jacob tried to hold eye contact but soon looked away as everyone around him was staring him down. "If you three were smart you could have lead the zombies into a house and trapped them before heading out the back entrance and going back to camp to get help. If you had done that we could have been far more prepared and killed the hoard at our leisure instead of rushing to set up our defenses."
The room was quiet as everyone started to debate the situation. At first some of the people were willing to give him a second chance. They had already been prepared for situations where scouting teams would come back with zombies chasing them. Of course everyone was told to use a phone to call ahead if they were ever in such a situation so everyone would be prepared for the assault. The thing that had changed everyone's mind was the fact that Jacob and his friends had not only beaten Nathan up before sneaking out, but the fact that they had done all of this just for weed and not to help the group as a whole. At this point people were starting to mutter about kicking him out on his own.
"There is more that he has done wrong then even that." Dave said interrupting everyone's thoughts. He grabbed the attention of everyone in the room before walking up to Jacob and standing directly in front of him. Jacob looked up at the fire fighter and snarled at the man who had punched his lights out. "This piece of filth did something far worse than anything that you have brought up to this point Joshua. This little bastard killed his own friend." Dave's statement caused the crowd to gasp in astonishment. Most of them looked on in disbelief at the information.
"What the hell are you talking about? I would never kill my friends! NEVER!" Jacob shouted in outrage at the allegation.
"I saw you kid. I was on the tower on that side of the fence line at the time you and Rick were rushing through the forest towards the fence. I was preparing to shoot some arrows to try to help you two out a bit, before signaling you to head towards the front gate." Dave said pausing to take in a deep breath. "That's when I saw the look on your face change from fear to a cunning smile that I would normally only see on a villain in some stupid eighties action movie. I watched as you lead your friend into a trap, carefully jog over a hidden wire without losing stride to hide its presence, and then not even turn around when Rick screamed for help after falling over the wire. You didn't even slow down, you just smiled a bit to yourself before putting on a panicked look as you ran towards the gate."
After hearing this Joshua stepped forward and glared down at Jacob. At first Jacob tried to act as though it was all a lie as he pleaded that he didn't do it, but after a few moments he realized that no one believed him. Joshua picked him up off the floor and held him off his feet with one arm before looking him in the eye. "I don't think I need to even put it to a vote anymore after all we've heard." He looked towards everyone else in the room only to get nods in return. "As of this moment, Jacob, you are no longer a part of this group because of your misdeeds. As of now you are no longer allowed to stay with us and are on your own."
Joshua started to drag Jacob along the ground as he struggled to break free of his grip. Jacob continuously flailed around and begged for help as Joshua dragged him all the way to the front gate. Almost everyone else in the group followed the two all the way out to the gate where Joshua signaled Dave to open it up for him. As Joshua headed outside the gate he once again held Jacob up by the neck before waiving Thomas over. "Uncuff him." Joshua almost spit the words out as he continued to stare down the struggling delinquent.
Thomas quickly did as he said before backing off and heading back over to everyone else. The last thing he wanted to do was get on the bad side of an angry giant like Joshua. For a moment Jacob struggled to grab on to Joshua with his now free arms, but Joshua's reach was too much longer than his own. Even if Jacob was rather big at the moment he looked like a kid being toyed with by a grown man. "You can't do this! How can I survive out there alone with nothing?" Jacob shouted pleadingly towards everyone behind Joshua. "You're all KILLING ME!"
With that last scream Joshua finally had enough and pulled Jacob forward before giving him a devastating head butt nearly knocking him out. Jacobs flailing arms went limp after the impact. In that moment he was so dazed he could no longer tell what was going on around him. Joshua then tossed him away like a piece of filth into the newly cleared out scorched ditch. "Never come back here. Otherwise I will kill you myself." Joshua said before turning around and leaving the dazed fool to cry outside the gate in the muddy ditch.
After staring at Jacob for a moment the rest of the group left and followed Joshua back towards the mansion. In that moment Madalyn turned around to have one last look at the idiot who had caused this whole mess. In that moment she saw a look she had seen several times before in the past from George. It was a glare of pure hatred staring directly at the back of Joshua. Madalyn had a vague smile as she thought of what she was going to do about the situation.