I can't believe I'm doing this, thought Markus.
The enigmatic Mister Smith had been the very last thing on his mind when he'd left his office to make morning rounds. But he'd just happened to glance to his left as he headed toward the stairs to the training compound and seen the smaller man standing there. Alone and partially shrouded in shadow, Smith was a picture in concentration as he stooped to remove his beloved camera from his knapsack. With the crude device balanced between his hands, he slowly stood and stepped closer to the railing.
On the concrete floor one story below, Kurdy was assembling the twelve most recent recruits for their introduction to the Thunder Mountain Regulars. They were a rough looking bunch, two women and ten men, ranging in ages from 17 to early 30's, all lean from hunger and wary from years of hard living. Most would have signed up for the promise of regular meals and a place to stay during training, with no real intention of remaining once they'd filled their stomachs and gotten as much as they could out of the deal. By the time Kurdy was finished with them, only 1 in 30 would drop out of the program. The others would remain, filled with a new sense of purpose and a desperate hope. Hope for a new world and a better life. Hope for freedom from evils like Daniel and his minions.
From his position on the catwalk, Smith had a clear shot of the recruits and took advantage of it. As Markus watched, Kurdy's self-proclaimed partner took approximately six photographs of the proceedings. At one point while addressing his new charges, Kurdy glanced up and looked right at Smith. He did not break stride or miss a beat in his "listen up" speech.
Interesting, thought Markus. Obviously Kurdy didn't mind Smith's hobby. Maybe they'd reached some sort of agreement between them. Like Frank in Milhaven, publisher of the town's only newspaper, maybe Smith had appointed himself photographic historian.
Two months ago Markus would have thought differently. Anyone that interested in photographing the doings in the Mountain couldn't be up to any good. Certainly not a mysterious, disheveled little guy with no past and a few marbles loose who claimed to talk to God. But Kurdy trusted the man. Completely. Implicitly. At first, Markus was disinclined to accept his own trust in Kurdy's judgment, and had tried to keep Smith isolated from Kurdy's missions until he could figure out what Smith's hidden agenda was.
But now? Even Markus had to admit that he'd come to trust in the man. At the very least, he believed Smith meant well and was genuinely eager to help the Alliance. He'd stuck his neck out any number of times, with no apparent concern for his own safety. And surprisingly, he'd proved to be an asset.
Markus smiled to himself as he remembered Kurdy's cornering him after it was Smith who'd found the right argument to convince the town of Great Falls to join the Alliance. "Told ya so," said Kurdy in defense of his strange friend before walking off without another word.
Kurdy wasn't the only person who believed in Smith. Avowed skeptic though she was, Erin had admitted to trusting him. Even Lee grudgingly thought Smith had done some good and wasn't the security risk he'd first thought. And every single child in the Mountain thought the man could walk on water.
Maybe he can, Markus thought sarcastically.
He looked up from his camera in the act of replacing the lens cap over the small pinhole opening. There was no guilt in his expression or concern that he'd been caught photographing a secure area of the Mountain. "Yes Markus?"
Markus nodded at the camera. "Can I get copies?"
"For the records. As fast as things are beginning to move, it's probably a good idea to keep a history of what's happening. What's about to happen."
"Sure." Smith's expression was solemn and gave nothing away of his own uses for the photographs. "I can do that."
"Good." Markus joined him by the railing and looked down at the recruits. Kurdy was forming them into two teams for their first exercise. "I was thinking about that night in the woods. About Meaghan. And it got me to wondering."
I must be insane to be doing this, thought Markus. He turned to Smith and blurted, "Does God have a message for me?" There! I've said it.
Smith met Markus' unflinching gaze. "No."
"Well. That's a bit disappointing," he said, trying to sound aloof and not disappointed. It was odd how he'd just assumed God would have something to convey to him. "Well, I just thought I'd ask. I'll just—"
"No, you don't understand," interrupted Smith, his voice sincere. "Markus, look at all the things you've accomplished. All the things you done and will do. Look around you! The Mountain. The Alliance. Those recruits down there, and all the others who will become soldiers willing to defend the future. The refugees who pour into the Mountain every day, looking for something better. Something safe." Smith's voice was earnest and almost awed. "Look at the people who follow you and trust in you. All the people who have new hope because of your dream. Your leadership."
"I don't see where —"
"Markus, God doesn't have a message for you," said Smith with a gentle authority that seemed more than his. "You are God's message."