"I thought I took care of you earlier!" Jed growled, advancing on Yuri and shoving his loaded gun into Yuri's face.
"No! Please don't shoot him!" Erica cried.
"And why shouldn't I?" asked Jed.
"Can't you see? He's injured, and frightened. He's just a kid, like us. Don't you have any compassion?"
"Not for a cold-blooded killer like him!" Jed began to pull the trigger. Erica placed her hand on his arm. "Please!" she repeated.
"Why do you all of a sudden want him spared? He just tried to kill you! He just tried to kill all of us!"
"He's sorry, aren't you, Yuri?"
Yuri, who had tears streaming down his cheeks, nodded.
"See? He didn't really know what he was doing!"
"So I should let him live so that he can recover and rejoin his Commie friends and continue killing Americans, is that it?"
Yuri shook his head vigorously. "No. I am done fighting. I kill no more. I live only for peace now."
"That's easy enough to say with a gun shoved into your face, isn't it?" Jed snarled.
"Put the gun away, Jed," Erica said calmly. "I believe him."
Jed started at Erica for a long time, then slowly put his gun away.
"Can you walk?" Erica asked Yuri.
"I don't think so," he said. She helped him out of the jeep and, supported by Daryl and Matt, he went with the others back to their hide-out.
"You save my life," he said to Erica. "I don't know how to thank you."
"You can thank me by keeping your promise to live in peace from now on," Erica told him.
Erica nursed Yuri back to health over the next few days. All the members of the group except Erica still regarded him with distrust. One day he and Erica were alone while the others had gone out in search of food and ammunition.
"It is hard," he told her. "To be the one whom everyone hates."
"Well, it's perfectly understandable for them to be angry," Erica said. "We were peacefully minding our own business when you just suddenly attacked us out of the blue. Many perfectly innocent Americans were injured and killed. Even my sister..."
Suddenly Erica was crying very hard.
"Your sister?" Yuri's voice was gentle. She felt him softly touch her arm and looked into his green eyes, which were full of compassion.
Erica nodded. "Toni. We were always so close. We did everything together. Sometimes I still can't believe she's really gone forever."
Erica's reverie was suddenly interrupted by the sound of bullets.
"Quick! Hide!" she shouted. She half ran, half dragged Yuri further into the bushes. The limbs of the shrubs scratched their faces, nearly poking them in the eye more than once. Suddenly Erica came upon a pair of black boots and gasped with dismay right before looking up into the barrel of a gun.
"Just where do y'all think yer goin'?" drawled an unmistakable Texas accent.
Erica thought fast. "My brother and I were hiding from the Commies with our friends. My brother got shot in the head and almost died. Our friends were out looking for food and I was tending to my brother's wound when I heard bullets. My brother's a deaf mute, so I had to make him understand that we were in danger and had to find another hiding place."
The man holding the gun glared suspiciously at Yuri. "How come your brother's dressed like that?"
"He got blood all over his clothes," Erica explained. "We found a dead Commie and took his clothes. Fortunately, they fit my brother."
"But the clothes he's wearin' now are all bloody too!"
"Nowhere near as bloody as his own clothes were," Erica said. "We had to bury them."
"What'r y'all's names?"
"I'm Erica, and my brother's name is George."
"And he can't talk at all?"
"No, sir. He was born completely deaf."
Slowly the man lowered the gun. "I'm Tex," he told them. "Y'all look right poorly. I reckon you could use some good home cookin' and a roof over your head tonight."
Erica figured that she had no choice but to trust Tex. After all, they'd only die out here alone in the wilderness.
Tex led them to his pick-up truck. Erica sat in the back holding Yuri's injured head, trying to protect it from the sharp bumps in the road as Tex drove over the rocky terrain.