TCRD Act 1 part 5


“Now this is the Law of the Jungle — as old and as true as the sky;
and the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back —
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack”.
-Kipling

Labor day had come and gone, and cooler weather was starting to set in. It was already dropping down into the fifties at night. The days were still relatively warm, with mostly clear blue skies. It was the kind of early fall weather that made a man or women grab a motorcycle and hit the back roads for some serious cruising. The camp went on as it had though some supplies were starting to get tight, and nerves were fraying but overall they were dealing with it.

Vickie was sick now, and Pappy was uncharacteristically kind and helpful. Much to the shock of everyone but his son and Jared who had always know that the old coot had a soft spot. A small one but it was there, at least where his daughter in law and his grandkids were concerned.

Over the last few days, they had run patrols into town and found zombies milling around the streets. Why no one really knew though the general consensus was that some one had been moving around town, it was the only thing that explained their behavior.

The problem facing Jared was finding a safe way to move around town to recover the Medical and fuel supplies they needed with as little risk as possible.   They needed those supplies, so there was no way to avoid the trip into town.

Food was also a major issue one that returning to Walmart to finish clearing the shelves would go a long way to help the small community survive.

The Plan that Jared and his friends had originally come up with to deal with some kind of long term disaster had relied primarily on hunting as the primary way to feed themselves. That wasn’t possible now, for some reason the normally abundant wild life had vanished from the area. Steve had suspected that the wild life, all animals were hiding from the undead.   Jared didn’t have a better idea on why not only the wild life, but dogs, cats even cattle had seemingly vanished.

Ori was happy for the first time since the dead had risen. He and Beth had hooked up, much to every ones delight. Jared wouldn’t bring it up, but he could tell the difference between how Ori had acted with the ditzy women he had dated before and how he acted with Beth who was a far cry from Ori’s normal type. She didn’t have to get dressed to quit her job for starters. Well if anyone still had jobs to quit at any rate.

Sharon was pregnant, which worried the crap out of Jared. But not, he admitted, as much as he worried about carol who was due anytime now. He had teased Carol about being a weeble at one point. Now all he could do was worry.

They had no doctors and Jared’s medical skills were barely above first aid level. Carol how ever actually seemed calmer at this point than he was. often joking about the fact she would need to find some one to make custom bra’s for her and that there was no way she could stand up with out carrying a counter weight on her back.

The one bright spot was Linda had been a nurse before the dead had risen, which made Jared a little less worried than he had been.

Jared sipped at his coffee, which was more chicory now than coffee, but he could pretend. At least the Kids were recovering, as much as they could at any rate after the nightmare ordeal they had been through.

Every Adult in camp felt like a parent to the Children, and saw them as something precious a symbol of the innocence of a lost world and they would protect the kids at all costs.

He watched Cathy climb out of the RV and walk to the water barrels and fill up the gallon jug she carried. She lifted a hand and gave him a single, hesitant wave. Now those two he didn’t know about. She seemed okay, but Henry, he just struck Jared wrong.

Henry was no friendlier now than the day he had first arrived. Maybe with time, but till Jared could trust him; he had to leave people at the camp to keep on eye on things instead of riding out to do godly battle. He grinned at that phrase, more like to salvage and shoot walkers. But having to leave people he trusted at camp to cut down on the number of gunslinger’s he could bring to bear on a target.  Gunslinger’s he thought with a chuckle. The name Beth had bestowed on the dirty six-pack, after the return from the battle of Wal-Mart as she called it.

Now Jason, Jared thought with a real amusement. He was a good guy, who seemed to have something in common with Rob and Eric. But if his wife Linda didn’t mind, Jared could care less.  What was important to him was that Jason had leaped in and helped around the camp since their arrival.

They were an odd couple in some ways, muscle-bound, Hollywood good looks kind of man and petite, oddly cute if plain, quiet unassuming wife. They were two really great people to be around. Not to mention Jason had an incredible repertoire of Irish drinking songs which included some of the filthiest drinking songs ever composed by man. Those songs had endeared Pappy to the younger man.

Jared sighed in frustration and placed the coffee cup on the table, he had put off the town-clearing plan for a few days, almost happy that mechanical problems with a couple of the trucks had prevented them from going back before now.

Part of if, he admitted to himself was avoiding placing his friends in danger. But he knew they would have to go sooner or later and the danger would not be any less.

Things were not all roses here in camp either; there had been a few fist fights.   Jared had been in a couple of pretty heated arguments with Ronny about using the ultra light, the man had a hard on for flying suddenly and Jared had to admit that the ultra light could be a real asset for scouting areas and watching for hordes of undead that were on the move.

There were so many other things that needed doing, that the Ultra light was low on the priority list for Jared. Ronny had consistently argued that Jared’s dislike of planes and falling out of the sky was the real reason he was against the ultra light and there was probably some truth to it Jared admitted to himself.

But at the root of all the problems that really bothered Jared, was the realization every one thought of him as the leader. Every single one of these lovable idiots seemed to believe that. Well maybe not pappy he thought with a laugh. He didn’t want the job but no one else wanted it either and he had been acting as the Leader since every one met at his house.

How he kept his sanity, how any of them kept their sanity he didn’t know, but he had to admit that in his case a lot of it had to do with having Jill in his life, it made all the difference in the world for him. Just waking up next to her did more to help his battered psych hold on than anything else he had tried.

“ Penny for your thoughts” Jill said from behind him. He smiled as he sat aside his cup and rose to hug her. “ Oh lord, get a damn room, no one wants to see your pecker” Pappy said as he hobbled up for his usual morning cup of coffee and smiled at Jill in passing, the smile was much more like a leer.

“ He is like a demented Yoda” Jared commented, Jill spluttered a laugh.

“ I’m like a what, you young ass wipe.” Pappy growled turning a glare on Jared that could hve peeled paint.

“ Yoda, one who espouses wisdom and teaches the young about the ways of life” Jared said with a straight face. Pappy glared at him, sure he was being put on but had no idea how then finally nodded in satisfaction..

“ if youn’s got your faces out of pussy long enough to listen I got an ass load of wisdom.” He said then stomped into the kitchen.

“ we need to get him robes and a cane.” Jared said as Jill tried not to laugh. “ ooo… young Skywalker. Concentrate you must, cocksucking little piss ant you are.” He said doing a fairly credible imitation of the Yoda voice channeling pappy.   Jill started laughing and couldn’t stop for a couple of minutes. The good mood was gone by lunch when he had to deal with another crisis.

“ We can’t finish the wall” Steve was saying as Jared walked up to the in active backhoe. The unfinished palisade wall mocked him with its incompleteness.

“ Why the hell not?” Jared asked, ticked off but not surprised. Private Murphy seemed to have no place to be and was enjoying jacking them around lately.

“ Because we blew the hydraulics on the damn backhoe. We hit what we thought was field stone and instead of getting Jeff who is a hell of lot better with this kind of thing. Rob thought he could just pry it out of the ground. turns out He, well really we weren’t smarter than the rock. And we cant get it done right till we repair the Damn backhoe. Which means parts that may not even be in town.” Steve replied as Jared let loose with a slew of cursing.

“ Your finally learning” Pappy called out from where he sat at in front of the travel trailer. Watching the show with an old Garand across his knees “ I was starting to think you were cursed to be the politest most annoying prick I’ve ever met.”

Steve snorted a laugh at Pappys comment. “ Well this just another reason we need to start cleaning out the town. Linda was telling me she needs some stuff for Carol’s delivery and of course we need more food. All of which means we have to deal with the zombies in town who seem to be just waiting for us to poke our heads in.” Jared said as he glared at the Backhoe for a moment as if he could make it work by force of will alone. “we have to do this the right way” Jared added.

He hadn’t really discussed his idea that the zombies had set up an ambush at Walmart, it made sense in way but it really didn’t fit with the what they knew of how the undead acted.

All the zombies that had flooded out of the back, had been there the entire time, doing nothing, while Jared and the others had run back and forth with the carts and making a lot of noise.

It had only been when they were about to leave that the undead in the back put in appearance, at the same time as the gathering crowd of undead in the parking lot had begun to advance on the doors.

It seemed like it had been planned, but maybe the ones in the back had just been to far into the storeroom that it took them that long to reach the front of the store.

He knew he would never know the truth of it, but just the thought of the dead possibly acting with cunning, was making him super cautious. Especially if they had sprung a trap, which meant they were getting smarter or even worse someone had been hiding back there and opened a door to let them out. He shuddered at that thought. Not sure, which bothered him more, smarter zombies or someone using them as weapons.

Those thoughts flickered through his mind as fast as lightening, he looked at the backhoe and shook his head, it didn’t matter they had to go into town.

“ Tonight, we need to sit down and make some plans. Because the day after tomorrow, we are going back to town.” Jared said. “ We don’t have a choice, we need meds, more food. Fuel, and now parts” Steve looked like he wanted to protest but didn’t. He knew Jared was right. This was survival; he didn’t have the luxury of avoiding the dangers in town.

After supper, every one gathered in Cabin Two to discuss plans for clearing and getting what they needed from town. Looking at the map there wasn’t much to the town, four state roads crossed through the center of town, with the court house sitting right in the center of the square they formed.

The problem was to reach the places they needed to get to they had to go thru the center of town. If there were any other ways to go around it, they hadn’t found it on the map, and they didn’t personally remember any way to go around either, and there were no locals left for them to ask.

Steve eyed the map for a long while, Jared refuse, and with good reason, to take any of the side roads to avoid the concentrations of undead on the main streets. Those streets were to narrow and there were a lot of cars that had been left in the middle of the street when people abandoned them to flee on foot. Getting stuck on those roads with houses on both sides, and sight lines broken up by homes, was a recipe for Steve A la king. A dish he hoped was never served.

Besides they would still be forced to pass through the downtown area, so they might as well just take the wider main street all the way instead of a back road that would eventually dump them on the same main street.

Jared leaned against the wall letting Steve and the others talk over the route and plans, while drinking carefully horded beer that no one had suspected Jared of having till he broke it out for the meeting. Drinking and creating ops plans don’t mix usually he thought with a grin as he took a drink of the ice cold beer, And made a mental note to retrieve more beer from his stash for a party after the run into town.

“ I still say we make a couple of flame throwers” Chris said suddenly.

“ Oh sure, and exactly what makes you think that zombies will just fall over when struck by flames. More likely you’ll have a bunch of Flaming zombies running around after you.  Which we will have to put out with fire extinguishers to keep from getting set on fire ourselves which defeats the whole purpose of setting them on fire in the first place” Jill pointed out, almost but not quite rolling her eyes.

“ Find a chemical supply place and douse them in liquid nitrogen, then we can let the kids run loose with little hammers and smash them” Ori said sarcastically.

“ Actually that’s not a bad idea, but we would have to hit a larger town to find liquid nitrogen” Steve said, loving the idea of making zompops.

“ Why not just go with the normal run them over and then back up and do it again plan?” Jason asked. Steve was curious why Jared asked Jason to sit in on the meeting. He didn’t question the decision Jason seemed to be pretty level headed, he was just curious as to what Jared was thinking.  “ We could just hook up a horse trailer load people inside with guns roll it into the position after we’ve run over everything and shoot anything that moves after that.”

“ Because it’s possible that too many bodies crowded around, would make it impossible to move even with the our jacked up trucks. And even if the trucks make it over a pile of zombie bodies, a trailer would just get centered out. And that would stop the truck.“ Mark explained.

“ My girlfriend for a helicopter” Ronny muttered, Mary slapped him on the back of head. “ your fiancé, idiot” she corrected. He nodded in agreement, grinning not feeling repentant in the least. Jared shook his head wondering if they realized everybody that knew them, knew exactly what kind of relationship they had and who was in charge. Surely they must know he thought.

“ What about a bulldozer?” Rob said suddenly.

“ that would be great if we had one” Steve replied.

“ I saw one on a trailer in that equestrian community subdivision out on the main road leading into the park., it was sitting on a lot they were clearing before the shit hit the fan. Finding a truck to pull the trailer its on, wont be a problem. Slap some plywood on the cab. And drive that bitch right down the road.” Rob told them then looked around and started laughing at the surprised looks the others were giving him. “ who says homo’s cant be useful”

“ I really hope you fuck sticks don’t think your going to leave this old shit behind” pappy said from the doorway and grinned. “ cant let you Army pukes run around with out an escort. There is a reason marines go in first you know, to set up the lights and the signs so the army can find its way” he walked slowly into the cabin and then sighed happily seeing the bottles of beer. “now give me a damn beer, or ill bury my boot so far up your asses, you’ll be spitting shoe leather.” Jared coughed suddenly though it sounded suspiciously like a laugh.

Steve tossed pappy a beer and watched as the old man popped the cap off the bottle with his teeth. He took a long drink then lowered the bottle with a sigh. Wiping his hand across his mouth, he looked at Jared. “ Besides, your going to need every gun you can get, and if some one has to die. Id rather it was me than Jeff. Jeff has a wife and those grandkids of mine to protect.” Jared only thought he had been shocked before.

Seeing this side of pappy floored him and brought back a memory from when he had been fifteen, Pappy had been like this then too. “and I can still shoot, OO rah “ Pappy said dropping into a chair. “Like the turd packer said dozers the way to go” he ignored the laughter from the women, as he took a long drink of Beer

*************************

Seth hummed happily as he puttered about on the roof, he even waved to a few of the zombies he knew down on the street. Things were going swimmingly he thought. He giggled at that “ swimmingly.” He loved that word since he had first heard it on some English TV show.

Now those Brits were some polite and educated folks. Not like the rude people he’d had to deal with around here. He finished carefully wrapping plastic around the rifle he was going to leave on the roof. Cant risk it getting wet from dew or rain, might spoil the party.

He had been quite busy during the two days the zombies had gone off to bother some one else. oh yes hiding gifts and getting party favors ready. He wished he knew more women to invite. Once he had this party under his belt he could go and pick up the women who had stayed behind at the camp. He just knew they would like to come visit. And the Kids too, especially the kids, he loved kids more than anything else in the world. His Friend had even talked about taking them to live with him. They would be so happy with him.

******************************

The sun rose behind a veil of clouds, as the assembled team got ready.  Jared stopped for a moment enjoying the cool breeze that blew across the camp.  Every one else was making final preps and checking gear.  He didn’t see much going wrong today, but who knew when Murphy was going to step in and put your pecker in a meat grinder.

Jason’s case of nerves was obvious, the finger drumming and foot tapping could get annoying, but he was gamely going over the gear he had been given and listening to Steve who was offering last-minute advice. To have survived this long, Jason had to have been able to keep from panicking. So Jared wasn’t really worried about taking him along. Besides, he had to keep Ronnie here at the camp to keep on eye on things.

They had secured fifteen Propane bottles the big ones at the co-op, with only minimal zombie presence to deal with. Ori and Mark were now loading them into the back of Marks Truck. Jared eyed the walkie talkie contraption they had attached to each tank using Liquid nails of all things. His eyes shifted to the Detonator box that currently sat on the Hood of Marks Ford F350.

Jared felt edgy around it, which might explain his aversion to working EOD. Nervousness and bombs don’t go well together. Kind of like being a nun at an orgy, you really didn’t want a pissed off Nun with a ruler anywhere close to a bunch of naked butts.

Leave it to Ori, to have come up with whole bomb idea. Of course, Ori had worked EOD till he cross trained into scouts. So he at least was more qualified to blow himself up.

Inside the box were the matching walking Talkies to the ones secured to the bottles, all cheap units they had gotten from Wal mart during their last trip, each secured to the bottom of the box with foam packed around them.

Each set of walkies shared a channel, or a privacy channel. All you had to do was the insert the battery and press the call button and ignition. They didn’t have batteries installed at the moment for safety reasons. No one wanted to blow themselves up accidentally. Dying from stupidity was not high on the list of things to do today.

As long as the detonators worked the way Ori said they would, things were going to be interesting. At least Pappy had been thrilled at the Idea. “ never would have believed an ugly ass, skinny little prick like you could be that devious. “ he had said to Ori as he clapped him on the shoulder, which was the closest Pappy could come to a compliment.

Beside Ronny, Jeff, Shelly, Mary and Eric were staying at the camp for security. Just in case it all went into the crapper. It would be up to Ronny and the others to hold the fort or get everyone out and to a better place if the worst happened. Ronny had asked Jared for advice if something did happen and hadn’t been real thrilled when Jared told him. “ Don’t tell the kids stories about sex, till they are twenty, and do what you think is best at the time.”

The drive to the edge of town seemed to take longer than usual. Turning on to the by pass, they drove to the 52 exit and came to a stop under the battered giant American flag that still hung from the pole. Overhead, dark clouds pregnant with rain hovered. A chilled breeze blew fitfully stirring the dead leaves and trash that spiraled across the road.

Here and there a zombie wandered down the road, or along the sloping sides. No more than twenty or thirty scattered along the two miles of road they could see. Not what they expected to be honest. Jared slipped out of his truck and let Jill take the wheel. Steve hopped down rifle in hand and grinned, “ ready to go take a peak”

Jared and Steve hit the ground running making their way up the slope. Ten feet from the top they dropped and low crawled till they could peer over the crest. There was nothing close so Jared pulled out his Binoculars and swept the area, from here he could see the four or five blocks to the town center. Now that’s just odd “ he muttered. Here and there he could see a zombie, occasionally a cluster of them but not the huge mass that had filled the streets just two days ago. “is it like that all the way down” Steve asked.

“ As far as I can see at any rate” Jared replied.

“ Where did they all go?” Steve asked Jared shrugged in answer.

At this point they had two options, cut up onto 52 and drive straight thru, which was the shorter route. Or drive further down the by pass and take Old 127 north like they had planned. It was longer, but there weren’t a lot of homes or business’s till they were close to the courthouse. Either way once they got to the courthouse, they could be hit from four sides, which he had already counted on. “ We go this way then” he said, Steve nodded, not really Caring either way he just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible. They slipped back down the slope and rejoined the others.

“ we are going in here” Jared said, “ drive up to 52 and we unload the dozer there.” He said as he climbed back into his truck. it took only a few minutes to get turned around and then take the exit up. Jared’s nerves were tight and singing with tension. Where in the hell could all of the undead have gone?

They unloaded the bulldozer in plain sight of the handful of zombies in the parking lot of wal mart, the ten or so they observed were to far away to be of any threat for now. With the dozer blade lowered to ankle height, Rob secured the cab of the dozer and put it into gear. The treads engaged and with a bellow of the engine and a lurch the heavy machine started down the road, the heavy metal treads tearing up the road. Jared flanked it on the right side, Steve’s truck was on the left. Pappy rode with Chris in the back of Steve’s Truck while Bridget drove.

“ I’ve seen one legged, half dead hookers, with herpes drive faster than this “ Pappy complained as he shifted around trying to get comfortable. .

“ Bite me you old coot” Bridget snapped. “ The fastest thing you’ve driven in Twenty years is a fucking hover around” she added, Pappy cackled a laugh. Then shouldered his old Garand and shot down a elderly female zombie, wearing a blue dress suit.

“ Take that you uppity bitch. The last time you got laid, dust was puffing out your ears with each stroke” Pappy hooted.

Bridget shook her head in disgust. What a foul-mouthed old fuck she thought then laughed at her own choice of words. Funny but what a mouth. There were times she had really wanted to just slap his old ass silly. But knowing him, he would just laugh and let loose with a withering commentary on how she hit like a girl, or a navy sissy.

“ Look at that one” Pappy called out, obviously enjoying his ride thru town. “ who the hell dressed you the day you died, you Look like that prick Pee Wee Herman, fucking no ball loser” another shot rang out and Pee wee pitched over.

“I swear look at that Inbreeders, thank God your fucking snaggle toothed asses are dead, so you cant breed any more ugly slope browed, weak chinned kids. “ the Garand fired three more times. “looks like beached whales laying there like that “ Pappy observed with a laugh that dwindled off into a coughing fit.

Chris was laughing, making it harder for him to aim. But he was starting to rack up a good count. Even with the diminished numbers, there were a lot of targets out there. And pappy had a comment for every one of them.

Marks truck was the last vehicle with Ori riding as shotgun. Jason sat in the back ready to deploy the bombs. As the Group reached each side street, Jason would leap out of the Marks truck and place a bottle. Occasionally having to dodge a zombie to place the bottle where he wanted it. A few of the streets were fairly easy he only had to lay the bottle on its side and let it roll down.

There were maybe sixty zombies scattered around the courthouse, ten of them died under the blade and treads of the bulldozer. Jared, Steve, Ori and Jill went to work clearing them out with melee weapons. As they finished Pappy stood up in the bed of the truck looking east on old 127 “ I think I know where all the dead fucks went” he called out and pointed. Chris looked and frowned. Down the road about where the Tractor supply was, the road was full of zombies. Chris looked down old 127 south and saw more zombies

“ Rob hold up” Jared called out over the radio. He wanted to Keep the dozer from advancing past the square, in case they needed it. “ Ori, check our rear” he hoped he was wrong.

“ I see maybe sixty on the road now “ Ori replied.

“ We don’t have a choice, we have to hit the fuel yard and the hospital and pharmacies.” Jared said. “ All right mount up, get behind the dozer. “

Seth watched from the clock tower on the courthouse, as the small group of vehicles moved out heading towards the hospital. The dozer made short work of the zombies on the road, leaving a red paste and gore in its wake. By the time they vanished over the hill, the square had filled up with zombies. Which was exactly what he had wanted.

They had to come back this way, and when they did, he smiled that’s when the party would start. he was so excited by the idea he almost ran downstairs to knock off a quickie, but resisted the urge, it would be so much better after the party was over. He really wanted to let that blonde with the nice rack live with him too. Maybe have a nice threesome this evening.

*****************************

“ Hurry up “ Mark said in a low voice. Ori only shot him a dirty look as he hooked the curved end of the pry bar into the edge of the frosted glass door and pulled. The door to the emergency room slid open suddenly. . Mark shouted a warning snatching Ori back by his collar with his left hand. Undead filled the emergency room and were already pushing through the gap in the doorway. Mark back pedaled in horror dragging Ori with him, as the zombies who had been on the other side of the opaque door staggered out, grasping fingers barely missing Ori as he was pulled out of the way.

Ori moved back on his own power, as Mark let go, putting distance between himself and the Undead, he and Mark opened fire. Their wild fire settled down after a couple of seconds and fell into the pattern they had become used to when dealing with the undead. Jared moved to the right of the doorway, while Steve moved left so that the zombies were shredded in a cross fire as they poured out of the emergency room.

Pappy wasn’t happy about being stuck in the back of the Truck where he couldn’t even get his weapon into play with out someone being in the way. Unable to effectively engage the undead streaming out of the ER, he settled for keeping an eye on the area around them. Last thing they needed were more zombies coming around the building and catching them unawares.

“ Step back” Jared yelled over the thunder of gunfire. All four men took a step back keeping up their rate of fire. Bodies lay heaped in and around the front of the doorway. But more still emerging from the ER determined to reach the fresh meat that was so close.

Jason leaped out of Marks truck and grabbed a propane canister. Running forward, he launched the canister over the heads of the walking dead and into the emergency room. He could have qualified for the Olympic shot put team with that toss. Jared gave him a look of approval. “ On my mark “ he yelled at Jason, who nodded in understanding.

The withering fire did little to stop the flow of undead, who kept coming like rising floodwaters. Jared shot a look back and saw Jason had the control box open. He gave Jared a thumbs up. “ Fall back to the far side of the trucks “ Jared called out, the four men turned and sprinted for safety. Ori placed a hand on the edge of the bed and leaped into the bed, and in another step leaped to the ground on the other side of the truck. Jared slid behind his truck, shouting for every one to duck, he waited two heartbeats then “ blow it.” Jason ducked down and pushed the button.

Jared hadn’t been sure what to expect, when Ori had propose making Propane bombs. But what they got was pretty good all things considered. The explosion blew out all the glass in the emergency room sending it flying. Bodies were thrown forward slapping against the trucks, and blowing a few of the undead into the air. Jared looked up to see one zombie cartwheel over the bed of his truck snapping its neck when its head smacked the edge of the bed.

“ Son of bitch, I’m gonna put my boot up your ass, rip out your teeth and feed them to you.” Pappy hollered, at Ori, as a zombie landed in the bed of the truck with him. “ and you, half rotted, syphilis carrying, Limp dicked, asshole. I’m gonna kill you a second time.” Mark leaped to his feet ready to help and saw Pappy struggling with a zombie, the old man could barely hold its head away, as the teeth snapped an inch from his throat. “ Gonna gut you, you goat raping, Kilt wearing. Transvestite” Pappy said hoarsely, as he tried to shift around.

Finally, he got his feet up and into the zombie’s stomach and pushed up grunting in pain. As soon as he pushed the mobile corpse up far enough his right hand shot up from his side and he drove the old bayonet he always wore up thru the bottom of the things jaw and into its brain. The zombie suddenly went limp and pappy shoved it off breathing hard. “ Don’t just stand there looking at me you pussy, shoot the bastards.” Pappy hollered pointing at the remaining undead.

It only took a few more minutes to finish cleaning out the remaining zombies. Those closest to the bottle bomb had been killed when the shock wave had turned their brains to jelly.  At around ten meters out , arms, legs and occasionally heads had been torn away and scattered around the emergency room where a few small fires still flickered.

Jared stepped over a shredded body and put a bullet into another zombie that was nothing more than a head with a torso. “ Be careful, there might be more like that. Don’t want any one getting bit on the ankles.” He said. “ Mark, Chris, and Jason. Check the interior door into the hospital if its open close it for now.” He looked around. “ Steve, your with me and Jill. Ori, you, pappy and Rob keep the parking lot open.”

“ I wonder how so many of those things ended up in here “ Steve asked as they stepped from the waiting room into the Actual ER. “ never mind stupid question.” he said, in the early stages those bitten had rushed or been rushed to ER’s where they had turned and attacked the people around them.

Jared frowned and pointed at a boom box sitting on a counter. the red battery light was still on. “ Maybe not so stupid” he said then placed a finger across his lips for silence.

They did one sweep thru the ER, satisfied that it was empty of undead.  Satisfied they were as safe as could be expected they opened the Duffle bags they had brought and began to load anything that looked promising.

Medicines were in short supply at the camp and what was there in the ER was scattered on the floor, mostly aspirin. Steve chuckled as he held up an opened package. “ Viagra, who ever the guy was he wanted a hard on” Jared laughed with him. Who ever had hit this place might still be alive and in town.

“ How’s the parking lot Look “ Jared asked over the radio.

“ a few dead folks are wandering this way but not a lot” Ori replied.

“ Mark, status” Jared asked.

“Don’t see anything in the hallway, but there’s a lot of closed doors.” Mark reported.

“Okay hang on we will be there in a few minutes. We have to load this stuff first” Jared replied.

ten minutes didn’t sound like a lot of time, but when your waiting in a very dim hallway, in a hospital where undead may be roaming around it can seem like an eternity. Mark thought as Jared and the others finally appeared. “ Glad you could join us” Mark whispered.

“ Sorry we stopped off for coffee, and Steve had to flirt with a nurse” Jared replied.

“ no problem I know how big a man whore he can be” Mark said with a quiet laugh

Jared peered thru the sliding glass door into the hallway beyond. Most of the doors along both walls were closed up to the intersection. there in the intersection he could see an overturned gurney and a rotting body. “This gives me the creeps” Jill said. Me too Jared thought but didn’t say anything.

He glanced up at the direction signs on the wall then pointed “ well any one ready to visit the pharmacy?” Jared asked, already feeling the knot of nerves in his stomach come to life again.

They moved into the hallway, closing the sliding door to the ER behind them. Jason and Chris remained behind to hold the door.

They moved as quietly as possible but every with the tile floor they were still louder than Jared liked. All of them constantly expected one of the clsoed doors to open and zombies to pour out  in to the hallway. which only kept the entire group  more on edge.  Checking the signs at each intersecting hallway they moved slowly towards the pharmacy and deeper into the shadow filled hospital.

Finally they reached a large hexagonal area decorated with fake plants and overturned benches, that had served as a waiting area for the pharmacy. Here and there were dried rusty brown spots on the tile where some one had bled out. the hallway continued deeper into the building, directly opposite their position.

Jared sniffed and only smelled mold and the old smell of blood and death but not the stink of the undead. The window to the pharmacy was shuttered from the inside and from the look of the four-inch thick high impact plastic, they wouldn’t be able to shoot thru it.

“ We could try one of the propane bombs on it” Mark suggested. Jared shook his head, smiling.

“ I think we would hurt ourselves more than the window or door.” Jared said as he studied the thing. Drawing his knife he stuck it in the wall, and sawed out a section of wallboard to shine his flashlight in to the hole. “ Reinforced wall. The door frame is definitely reinforced, I don’t even have to look to know that.” Jared slammed a fist into the wall, “Damn it.” We need those meds”

“ Shouldn’t there be some kind of system, that in case of emergencies, like power outages that you can open the door.” Jill asked.

“ Sure it’s a doorknob on the inside.” Jared replied with grim humor. .

“ We could always level the place with the dozer” Steve said.

Jared leaned against the wall thinking. “ How much cable do you have on your winch?” he asked.

“ a hundred feet which wont reach here anyway, and even if it did there aint no way in hell my truck is going to pull out a reinforced door” Steve replied as Jared looked thoughtful, then turned and eyed the office doors across from the pharmacy.

“ We need to check those out, because if theres a window in there, I have a hundred feet of cable too. And I wasn’t thinking about the trucks. we do have a dozer out there” Steve started grinning, “ that might just work”

Half an hour later, Jared stepped thru the hole where a door had once been and smiled as he looked around. “Grab the bags, we have work to do” he told the others then keyed his radio and asked “how’s the street look out there”

“ As empty as an Albanian whore house” Pappy replied.

“ Who gave him a Radio?” Steve asked with a shake of his head

“ There’s a few on the north side Jared, maybe twenty in all. “ Ori added. “ they are all spread out, we were about to take them out with shovels and axes.”

“ Be careful” Jared instructed needlessly then turned back to the pharmacy. “ I wonder if the pharmacy just down the road has been looted.”

“ all right that’s it “ Jared said some minutes later as they swept the last of the drugs into trash bags they had found after filling the duffel bags.

“ Not as much in here as I would have thought.” Steve said

“ theres more scattered thru out the hospital in lock boxes, and secured storage areas on each floor, lets not be greedy today, we can come back and gather more later” Jared commented as they carried the bags out and placed them in the back of his truck. “ all right lets mount up, the fuel yard is next”

*******************

Seth looked at his watch; it was a nice watches that one of the deputies had given him. He heard lots of gunfire two and a half houre ago, probably when they entered either Waldecks pharmacy or the Emergency room. he hoped they liked his presents, it had taken a bit of work to get some of his neighbors inside. But in the end they had been overjoyed to be able to meet the new folks in town.

He looked down in the square and waved. Many of his neighbors were half way to the Hospital by now. He couldn’t wait, not really. All this excitement was giving him wood. If this lasted much longer he was going to have to head downstairs and get some relief. Stay and watch the party, or go downstairs and enjoy his fiancé. Both were fun, he thought sighing, but a good host doesn’t just leave the party before its over.

In the distance, he heard a motor, it took him a moment to recognize it as the bull dozer that had passed thru with the trucks. That was just annoying. He hadnt expect that nor had his friend. Lets be honest, even with out a dozer, my slow moving and admittedly stupid neighbors weren’t a big threat.

He sighed in frustration, and lifted his rifle. At least he had found some of the bullets his friend had suggested he use, right where he said they would be. Actually he had found almost every thing his friend had told him about during his last visit.

His friend was supposed to drop by tonight after the party to meet Seth’s fiancé and talk to him about his plans for the camp his guests had come from. Seth couldn’t wait, to share the success of his party either they could talk and laugh about it most of the night.

He removed the clip, he liked that it sounded all-military, it was the term he had heard in movies all his life, and inserted a new one with the special bullets. He lifted the rifle and peered thru the scope smiling as he saw the party favor. “I hope they appreciate all the trouble I went to”

He felt excitement build as he heard the sound of motors growing louder. He watched as the small convoy appeared at the top of the hill, he waited patiently as the Dozer moved past the Cafeteria where his party favor waited. The first truck behind it turned right down Clinton. “ so they are going to the Fuel storage yard” he said chuckling at how easy it was to figure out what they were going to do. “ well no time like the present” he said chuckling again this time at the joke inside the comment.

He pulled the trigger, and cursed as he missed. His second shot went home and all hell broke loose.

Jared turned down Clinton, less than a block from the Fuel storage area. there were still a lot of zombies, but not as many as before since most of them had wandered out onto 52 following the sound of the motors. But there were more than enough of them left to be a problem. He heard a shot, but not from one of the weapons his people were using. He looked out the window towards the courthouse and saw a bar of light, and heard a Crack. Tracer round he realized confused for just a second and a second was far to long.

Bbehind him, there was a flash of light, the back end of his truck bucked up, sending Steve flying from the bed and into the brush by the turn of the century train station.   Debris, some of it burning began to fall to the ground. A acetylene tank riding a jet of flame shot out of the Cafeteria and smashed into the train station, in seconds the old wooden structure was burning. Something big smashed into the hood of Jareds truck Driving the whole front in down, the truck yanked to the left and smashed into Alex’s tire shop, totaled

Bridget was just about to turn to follow Jared when the explosion occurred, the shock wave hit the truck she was driving on its the side and sent it tumbling. Chris just reacted, as the truck went over and flinging them out. Some how he managed to grab pappy and wrap himself around the fail old man as they sailed out of the bed. The truck rolled several times shedding parts and broken glass before coming to a stop. .

Mark slammed on his brakes, as burning debris fell around his truck. He stared for maybe a heart beat watching Jared’s truck smash into a tire shop, and Bridgets truck roll into a ditch. “ Cover them’ he yelled as he leaped from his truck and ran to check out Bridget, his pistol drawn. If she had died, she would be waking up as one of those things he thought as he slid to one knee beside the cab and peered into the truck.

Bridget hung upside down in her seatbelt, blood trickling from the gash in her forehead. The sides of her face and lips were swollen and bruised. He watched till he was sure she was breathing, and then and only then drew his knife cut her loose.

“ Sharon, Jason over here” he yelled and waited till they reached him. “ get her back to the truck.” Mark told them

“ if we move her she might die” Jason protested. Mark pointed towards the courthouse were zombies were marching towards them.

“ if she stays on the ground she will damn sure die. Do it, just keep an eye on her. don’t want her dying and coming back” he said then rose and sprinted for Jared’s truck. Two zombies had come around the corner of the tireshop building and were close enough to pose a threat so mark shot them down. As the second one fell, he saw Jared’s door fly open. Jared half fell out of the truck then reached back inside and pulled Jill out.

“Behind you” Mark yelled seeing the thirty more zombies come around the corner of the tire shop and advance on the wrecked truck.

Seth watched thru the scope as one of the survivors pulled a woman from the wreck of one truck, another woman, the blond with the nice boobs and a muscle bound goon ran to help. He sighted in, but the first man took off running for the second wrecked truck. he laid his sights on the man then led him. A red headed man climbed out of the second wrecked truck. totally unaware of the zombies advancing on the wreck. “ oh well too late for you buddy “ Seth said and pulled the trigger.

Jared lifted Jill to his chest, and staggered away from the truck, his ears ringing and ten thousand very small guys with really large hammers in his head beating wildly out of sync with each other. Marc was yelling something, that he couldn’t hear thru the ringing. Then suddenly marks eyes widened, he stumbled to a stop Blood fountaining from his chest. Mark fell to his knees, then collapsed face down.

Jared stood holding Jill and staring in shock his mind protesting that this couldn’t be real. As the scope of the disaster he had led his friends into sank in he wanted to scream in denial.

No time, focus, he told himself, Mark had been shooting past him, there is a threat.   He looked back over his shoulder and saw a large group of zombies. He still had plenty of time before the crowd of undead reached them, he laid Jill on the ground then returned to the truck and retrieved his Colt Commando.

Weapon in hand he turned back to look at the body of his friend, and gasped in pain as a bullet punched thru the door of the truck and grazed his arm. He dropped into a crouch behind the door, using it to block the snipers sight line. It damn sure wasn’t going to stop any bullets.

With Bridget secured in the back of the truck, and the remaining propane bombs left on the street, Sharon leaped into the drivers seat and got the truck moving, heading towards Jared’s wrecked truck. She choked back a scream as she saw Mark sprawled in the gravel of the parking lot, a pool of blood spreading out from his still body. She would keep under control, she had to or others could die. but tears tracked down her face as something inside her died at the sight of the man she loved laying in a pool of blood.

Jared felt tears sliding down his cheeks as he saw Marks body twitch, then twitch again. He lifted his rifle as Sharon pulled up, Jason leaped out to help Jill to her feet and got her moving towards truck..

Jared only half noticed all that his concentration was focused on Mark. He wanted to pull the trigger so badly, knew he should but he waited. Maybe he was hoping Mark was still alive, even though he knew better. Whatever the reasons he held his fire watching as Marks arms came up and began to push the body upright. The head started to ratchet around.

“ Rest in peace buddy “ Jared said as he met the milky eyes staring at him. He fired once. “get this stuff loaded into Marks truck” he bellowed as he strode forward, daring the sniper to take a shot at him. Angrier than he could ever remember. It surged through him like a tide that threatened to overwhelm him. He turned cold deadly eyes on the courthouse, he would deal with that bastard before he left town.

Seth was laughing as he watched the drama unfold. He leaned out as if to get a better look. “ to late, bring out your dead” he hollered. And then screamed as a bullet whined off the stone windowsill, sending stone chip and splinters into his face and arms. He fell back into the clock tower, crabbing backwards to escape. Four more shots rang out. righteous indignation filled him how dare they shoot at him. Well he would just show them.

“You pasty faced, Prick sitting, Piss guzzling, shit stealer” pappy yelled, not even sure if the asshole heard him. “ I was killing better men than you before you inbred queer grandpa was born” he yelled as he reloaded the old rifle. He fumbled and dropped a round. He got another out and finished loading then inched back up and watched the window that the coward had been looking out of laughing at what he had done.

“ Um pappy” Chris said weakly. “ Yelling is not a good idea”

“ What the hell are you talking about, what, the asshole going to complain.” Pappy said with a snort of dismissal.

“ actually, you old fart I was thinking more of the huge crowd of zombies you just alerted to our location” Chris replied.

“ oh… fuck” Pappy said, for once at a loss for words as his gaze dropped down and he saw the undead heading towards the ditch they lay in. “ any ideas” He asked, not really wanting to play Custer.

“ Well you could help me up and we could run for it,” Chris said

“ Don’t know about running. But between the two of us we might be able to stagger, slowly back to the others,” Pappy said quietly, a slight determined smiled on his weathered face.

“ Well stop pissing your depends and help me up,“ Chris replied. Pappy chuckled as he reached down and helped the younger man sit up.

“ Reminds me of the time…. “ Pappy said as he hauled Chris to his feet. Chris moaned as Pappy launched into a story involving, the Japanese army, two hookers, a goat and a bottle of whiskey. By then they were shuffling towards the wreckage of Steve’s truck.

Rob had sat dazed by the explosion; his ears ringing wildly. He didn’t know how long it took but he finally was able to shake it off. He looked out the slits cut into the plywood that enclosed the cab. “ oh shit” he said seeing the overturned truck, the cafeteria was just rubble. The train station was in flames and the falling cinders were setting the dry grass and brush behind it on fire as well.

He revved the motor and began to turn the dozer to move over to where what was left of the group had gathered. He stopped again as he saw Pappy, half carrying Chris slowly away from maybe hundred or more zombies. There was something almost heroic about that, the old guy had to know he was too slow. But for all his insults, and snide remarks, he was doing his best to save a man he usually acted like he despised. Got to respect that, Rob thought as he put the dozer into gear and drove straight for the zombies that were gaining on the old man.

“ Look at that “ Pappy said as they saw the dozer passed them by. Its blade going down and then it struck the leading zombies. “ Woo hooo, take that you puss filled, maggot ridden, mostly dead tools” he said, doing his shuffling dance of victory.

“ Tool?” Chris asked, wincing with each pathetic dance step. “ Where in the hell did you learn that one”

“ I pay attention the important stuff” Pappy said seriously. Chris coughed and laughed.

“ I think you need to get your old dusty ass in motion, theres still a lot of those things that could catch us” Chris pointed out.

“ And this is the thanks I get for saving you.” Pappy said as he started forward again breathing heavily.

Jared went thru his second magazine of the day, and quickly reloaded. Snapping the charging handle, he took a moment to look around. Sharon looked ready to collapse, her eyes constantly darting to Marks body.

Just this morning Mark had talked about having a wedding ceremony soon, since Sharon was pregnant. “ Don’t worry buddy, Ill do my best to get her out of here and back to the camp.” Jared whispered, then lifted his weapon and continued firing at the mass of zombies that were coming down Clinton in a flood of dead flesh, the first ones already curling around his wrecked truck.

Seth pounded down the stairs to the maintenance room and retrieved the items he needed. Then rushed back upstairs. He had planned on using them down stairs, but now he wanted too see the action as he delivered his presents. “Oh yes, your going to get all of them Mr. Commando”

Steve, staggered thru the brush line, avoiding the flames that were sweeping thru the area behind the Train station. There was no way to get back to Jared’s Truck, flames and the undead had cut off that route. His only option had been to head around the north side of the train station and find a way back to his friends or find a place to hole up and wait for a chance to escape.

He had stumbled over his G36 as he limped away, and he thanked god he had. Emerging from the trees, he found himself on the side of the narrow road that fronted the Fuel storage area and crossed Clinton street. He stepped back into the trees and brush, and watched the zombies that were streaming onto Clinton and who weirdly didn’t even seem to notice him.

Maybe I look that bad he thought. He could hear gunfire from the other street so he knew at least some of his friends were still alive. God please let Bridget be okay he prayed silently. He really didn’t know what he would do if she were gone.

He looked around, there were to many for him to risk running around them and trying to make it down Clinton not with his leg hurt. No, not a smart idea at all, his eyes drifted over the few vehicles scattered along the road, some of the owners were no doubt in this crowd of undead.

It was the black van that drew his attention. Some one had spent a fortune on that puppy; it had at least a foot and a half, if not two feet of center clearance, brush guard, a roll bar with fog lights, and a storage rack on the roof that had boxes strapped in. it looked like an ford E-350. a nice van model. And what looked like a three-ton winch was mounted on the front.

He rapidly eyeballed the number of feet between his position and the van, and decided it was worth the risk and effort. If the drivers door hadn’t been standing open, he wouldn’t have bothered. No sense running over and finding the door locked, the keys gone, and a bunch of Zombies putting on their bibs.

He took a deep breath, hefted his rifle and ran, well more like limped rapidly to the van. Shooting any zombie closer then fifteen feet. He stumbled twice, the pain in his leg almost blinding him. He bit the inside of his mouth so as not to yell.

As soon as he started shooting zombies in the area began to turn and head towards him. He flipped them the finger. “ your welcome to try” He yelled at them. His leg was really hurting now, especially his damned lower leg.

He managed to get into the van, slam the door then whirl around in the seat and look in the bac ready to shoot the shit out of anything that moved. Other than the smell of old blood the van was empty. Well almost, he thought as he saw an arm laying on the floor. He ignored it as he drew his multi tool and ducked under the dashboard. A moment later the engine roared to life.

Oh yeah. A 6.0L diesel he thought cheering mentally. He locked the doors, grinning as he saw the four-wheel drive lever. He engaged the four wheel drive, slammed it into gear and turned around quickly, he would go around the zombies, head north cut across the doctors office parking lot just below the Hospital and come back up 52 to reach his friends.

Jared cocked his head listening, he had thought he had heard distant gunfire but wasn’t sure with all the firing going on around him. Suddenly in a lull of gunfire he heard a motor somewhere just north of their position, a diesel by the sound of it and heading away from the firefight.

His lips thinned as he considered the fact the sniper might be escaping. But no it was off to his right. The sniper would have had to run from the courthouse and thru a mess of zombies to get over there. Besides Jared was a bit busy at the moment dealing with the same crowd of dead people. So he wasn’t about to go after the vehicle.

Suddenly Pappy was at his side carrying Chris’s AR. Jared looked back and felt a bit of relief as he saw Chris leaning against the only truck that could still run. “ “I am starting to feel like a bug whose ass is about to meet a windshield.” Pappy said.

“ Shut up and shoot” Jared said with a tight grin totally lacking in humor. “ We either kill them all or we die here” Pappy nodded, and pulled the trigger, the AR chattered as he fired full auto. He cursed as he realized he had bumped the fire selector. Damn these fancy modern things, he thought as he turned the weapon in his hands trying to spot the selector.

Jared stopped firing long enough to point out the fire selector. Pappy hated feeling stupid, but nodded his thanks, and kicked it down to single shot. All this new fangled shit was just too much.

The crowd was thinning, Rob was certain of it, but not fast enough. He glanced at the fuel gauge and felt his stomach knot. One truck for however many people survived and it wouldn’t be enough, he might have enough to fuel to make it back to the by pass, but that would pretty much be it. a few could ride on the cab of the dozer and maybe once they got away from the courthouse and the zombie numbers were much lower. They might find a vehicle to take.

Sharon dumped the last bag in the Truck, and then retrieved her own rifle and got ready to fight. She knew there wasn’t enough room for every body. she wasn’t going to leave Marks body laying here to rot. No way in hell would he be left behind.

There were to many zombies she realized, way to many even now. Jared and Pappy were finishing the largest group closest to the truck but there were still more behind those. Maybe a hundred feet, pouring past the fuel yard and down Clinton Street towards the wreckage. She knelt by Marks body and touched his shoulder trying very hard not to look at the exit hole in his back. Tearing her eyes away she rose to her feet and turned towards the courthouse and began to shoot at the zombies that were getting past the dozer.

“ Van” Chris shouted, as he saw a huge black Van come over the hill from the direction of the hospital, running over any the zombies in its way. “ There’s a van!”

Jared turned and saw a monster of a Black Van tear past the burning Train station. Spraying gravel as it turned and cut across the train stations parking lot to cross Clinton and come to a stop near Marks body. The door flew open, and Jared who had been about to fire, let off the trigger a huge smile growing as Steve leaped out of the van.

Steve looked shocked as he saw the bloody and battered group and Marks body. Then “ where the hell is Bridget” he yelled.

“ She’s in the back of the truck, and she’s hurt, we don’t know how badly” Jason replied firing another burst into a couple of zombies that had gotten close. .

Jared wanted to protest, tell them there was no time for this, but he couldn’t, wouldn’t stop Steve from climbing into the bed of the truck and checking on Bridget. “Rob pull back “ Jared said over the radio. “Jason, get out the control box. And set those damn things off”

“You folks load up and get out of here, get the wounded and those medical supplies back to camp.” Jared said with a ring of authority in his voice.

“ Fuck off “ Steve said as he climbed into the truck. “That was no accident “ he said pointing to Mark.

“ and neither was that explosion. Some one in that courthouse was shooting tracer rounds at the cafeteria before it blew. And there were acetylene bottles flying around too. Those aren’t usually found in a cafeteria” Jared snapped

“ hate to break it to you guys, there are zombies listening in” Chris stated.

“ Fire in the hole” Jason shouted as he started pushing buttons.

Seth had just reached the clock tower again, when he heard the first explosion across town. Near the wal mart, then another, and then another. the explosions rippled down 52, then suddenly explosions and fire erupted around the courthouse.

Damn them, he had forgotten about the propane bottles they had set out. he could hear glass shattering all across the square. If any of the windows in the court house shattered, his neighbors might come in and he wasn’t ready for company not today. He dropped the bag he was carrying and ran back down the stairs. He had to check before he did anything else.

“ lets go” Jared shouted, “ mount up” even as the windows of the tire shop were still rattling from the explosions. Jared helped Pappy over to the van and inside. Jill climbed into the passenger seat. Jared went and knelt next to Marks body and place a hand on Sharons shoulder. “ Get in the Truck Sharon, I’m taking him back” Jared said. She nodded, and watched as he lifted Marks body and carried it to the van.

Rob turned back to the square as soon as the Propane bottles had exploded and began to plow over the surviving zombies. Behind him, the two vehicles followed. Then the van pulled into the courthouse parking lot plowing over any undead in its way.

**************

Seth ran from office to office on the ground floor and found three windows shattered. He quickly closed those office doors and piled any furniture he could find in front of each door. This wasn’t happening. He was going to get married tonight. His bachelor party hadn’t turned out the way it was supposed to. No sir it hadn’t. Finished he breathed a sigh of relief. Then froze as he heard motors out side. They started past the courthouse, and then stopped just outside.

“No, no no,” he said rushing down the stairs. “ You, guard the door and don’t start in on me” he said almost screaming at the deputy. “ baby, you need to hide” he yelled as he looked around frantically.   “There it is,” he said scooping up the heavy leather gun belt. He buckled it on smiling; it was just like the kind the cowboys had worn. He pulled the .44 Ruger blackhawk and smiled enjoying the weight and the feel of the weapon in his hand.

A real gunslingers weapon he liked to think. Wearing it he could picture himself standing beside John Wayne, gunning down the bad guys at the OK corral. His thoughts stumbled to a stop, was that right OK Corral.

Didn’t matter anyway. He was the new Sheriff in town. He told himself as he rushed up the stairs once more heading back to the entrance only to stop as he heard metal tearing and glass shattering upstairs. Panicked he backed away from the door to the main floor hallway, then turned and ran back to the shelter.

He ran past the rows of neatly stacked boxes of Emergency supplies to the back of the shelter where he had stacked a row of boxes to conceal an old door.   The door opened onto a tunnel that led to the Sheriffs office behind the courthouse. Back in the day it had been used to transfer prisoners to the courthouse to stand trail. Later in the sixties the sheriffs’ office had been expanded and a hallway had been built connecting it to the courthouse.

He was quite proud of his box wall it gave him a place to hide and the gaps he had left between boxes allowed him to watch the main door to the old bunker with out being seen and the tunnel gave him an escape route if needed.

“I wont be needing it, no sir. I can deal with these uninvited guests and then I will have to clear the courthouse again and fix the damn doors. He sighed heavily, life could be such a bitch he thought as he hunkered down waiting.

The argument had been short, when Jared had stopped the van and announced he was going to clear the courthouse, he wanted the bastards who had done this and he wasn’t leaving till he had their blood on his hands. “I want you people to wait here, till I get back” Jared told them. Pappy had promptly flipped him the bird and said he was coming with Jared. The entire crew refused to leave.

“ We are a team Jared, you cant do this with out the group and the group cant lose you.” Jason had said in the end Jared had folded. .

Sharon and Steve would stay with the vehicles, some one had to get the supplies, Bridget and Marks body back to camp. Rob would clear the parking lot till he was out of fuel. The rest of the team accompanied him.

Shooting out the glass of the locked door, he had hooked the winch to the doorframe not caring if the undead got inside or not. then stepped back as Chris used the three ton winch on the Van to pull the door frame out of the wall.

Glass crunched under Jared’s boots as he entered, shock and disgust on his face as he saw the interior. Rotting dead bodies had been placed on benches and then posed. One looked as if he were reading a paper. Another held a cell phone to his head, duct tape holding both the phone and the hand in place. Inside one of the offices, two female corpses, stripped to their bras and panties sat behind desks, both had been posed to look as if they were typing. “ Mother of God” Jason said, his bile rising. The stench was incredible in here. Worse than anywhere, Jared had been yet.

They moved down the hallway, finding several more bodies. There was even a Corpse sitting on the pot in the back bathroom. Ever one of the corpse had two or more gunshot wounds. But all of them had of course been shot in the head. “What the hell happened in here?” Chris asked as he leaned against a wall holding his ribs. Jared really should have knocked him out and locked him in the van.

“Some one killed them, then some one killed them again. Then the sick bastard posed them” Jared replied.

“ thank you captain obvious,” Chris said with morbid humor. Outside there were scattered shots as Steve and Sharon dealt with zombies that got to close. Jared headed for the stairs; the second and third floors were easy to clear. There was only the two Courtrooms and the judge’s chambers. Only in one of them had some one placed corpses. Sick bastard Jared thought. as he spotted a half open door and nudged it open with the barrel of is rifle, daylight filtered down the steps. “ Roof” he said. “ Wait here Ill be right back”

It didn’t take him long to search the narrow strip of roof below the clock tower, and only a minute to check and clear the Clock tower itself. He scooped up the bag and the rifle he saw on the floor then returned to the group.

Seth sat hidden from sight, and scared. More scared than the day his neighbors arrived. He had realized to late he had should have just shut the shelter door. But it was to late and he didn’t dare run over and close it now. Afraid that his guests would appear, and shoot him down, while he was standing in the open shutting the door. He regretted the fact that he hadn’t dragged his fiancé over to hide with him. But a man can only remember so much when things are going into the crapper around him.

He heard boots on the stairs to the shelter and drew his pistol. Fear coursed thru him. “son of a bitch” the speaker had a deep voice, the kind Seth had always wished he had. Peering thru a crack he watched as a red headed man entered the room, Carrying some kind of nasty looking military rifle, and wearing some kind of military vest with bulging pouches and pockets.

Seth continued to watch, as an old man hobbled into the main chamber, and then a blond muscled bound man who looked nervous but the hands holding the rifle were steady. He lifted his pistol and aimed thru the crack. Mr. Commando’s time had just run out. He squeezed the trigger, the recoil almost ripped the pistol from his hand. The bullet went high and to the right.

Jared was just about to move into the stacks of Emergency supplies against one wall when a pistol roared and a bullet smacked the wall behind him. He shifted the commando and fired a burst into the stack of crates at the far end of the room. Pappy let loose, firing fast and heavy.

Jared moved forward in a crouch, gliding with the predatory grace of a hunting tiger. Another shot went over his head and punched thru a box, the smell of spam filled the air. “ Im coming for you, you son of a bitch,” Jared called out. He ducked as three more shots were fired. Jason flanked to the right sliding around stacks of crates and boxes trying to get an angle on the shooter.

Jared ducked bend a pillar and then looked around it quickly before ducking his head back. The bullet struck the pillar he was behind, drawing sparks. But in that quick glimpse he saw a greasy haired, fish white man with a narrow face and pug nose. His eyes looked wild. “ You have one bullet left asshole, you’re holding a Ruger blackhawk, it’s a six shooter. If you don’t get me with that last bullet, Im going to pull your balls off your body then feed them to you!” Jared called out

Jason across the room shivered at the cold matter of fact tone in Jared’s voice. He could almost see the nut job, just a flash of shirt, behind a row of boxes just ahead of him, if he could just get a bit closer he could put the bastard down.

Seth patted his pockets and cursed, he was down to just that one bullet. He didn’t want to leave his fiancé, or his home. But the invaders were at the door. What the hell should he do now?

Jason cocked his head, for a moment he thought he heard some one speaking back there behind that stack of boxes. “ What, are you sure” the thin reedy voice said suddenly. Again Jason thought he heard some one say something, low and barely audible. “ All right then I trust you”

Jason looked around the boxes, and saw the idiot, alone, running for a metal door at the end of a narrow hall. He lifted his rifle and then froze for a heartbeat, for just a second he thought he had seen another man down there in the shadows.

He blinked and there were only shadows, but that moment’s hesitation was all the fleeing man needed to get thru the door and slam it with a clang. He heard something like gears turning and then a thunk.

Jared burst around the line of boxes and ran to the door, finding it locked from the other side. “ son of a bitch “ he muttered angrily.

“ I think you need to come over here” Jill called out from between stacks of boxes. Jared slung his rifle, but kept his hand near the butt of his pistol as he walked over to stand by Jill. “ I thought I heard something. From over there “ she said pointing down the passage between the two stacks of boxes. At the end was a door set in a cement wall.   Jared raised his rifle and listened for a moment.

“ Sounds like grunting and moaning. Its not a zombie what ever it is” Jared said as he walked slowly and carefully to the door. He knocked and immediately heard a noise like someone trying to speak.

“need Help” Pappy asked from behind Jared.

Jared nodded as he moved back and to the side then motioned to Pappy to open the door. “I get fucking bombed, thrown through the air, saved a pussy and what do I get asked to do, open a damn Door.” Pappy mumbled as he moved to the left side of the door before reaching over and grasping the knob. Pappy glanced at Jared, who nodded, Pappy shrugged and threw open the door.

Seth dropped into a chair in the sheriff’s office, and glared at the deputy sitting behind the desk. The man just stared back at him silently. “ You hate me too, don’t you. Just like the asshole that was supposed to guard my door. Well I don’t care. I have friends in high places” He shouted then lowered his voice. He didn’t want his neighbors to hear him.

He leaned his head back and thought furiously, he could still make this right. But he had to plan it out. The death was in the details, and the important part was getting the kids. The precious kids. “ Ill get those kids free, yes I will. Free them and bring them back here. and get her back. “ He was furious at losing his fiancé. Mr. Commando was going to pay. Seth would see to that.

He looked up and into the dark hallway that led to the Cells and smiled as he saw something move. “ They ruined my party, and stole my fiancé, but I’m going to get those kids and My Fiancé back. If you will help me” he started smiling as he heard the sound of motors revving and then the sound faded as they drove away. He was eager to get busy; rescues took a lot of work. “ Will you help me “ he asked looking up at his friend. A slight shiver of fear went thru him, but the smile he got in reply banished it. “ lets get busy then” He said.

The group had gotten off lucky, all things considered. Steve had suffered a bruised hip and shoulder, as well as a twisted knee. Bridget would pull thru; she had a bruised spine, a broken arm, and a concussion. Jared had only had an assortment of bruises, a shallow gash in his arm from the graze as well as cuts and scrapes from flying glass. Jill had taken a beating, two cracked ribs and a minor concussion and like Jared multiple cuts and scrapes from glass. Chris was by far the worst off, broken ribs, dislocated shoulder. Twisted ankle. and two broken fingers. Pappy had barely been bruised. And to the surprise of everyone, He hovered over Chris almost as much as he did his grandkids and daughter in law. Though every one doubted he called his grand kids the kind of names he called Chris.

The medical supplies, what they had, were a godsend. Linda was especially thrilled at the surgical tools and other equipment they had salvaged. Especially the small portable ultra sound unit they had grabbed in the ER.

Jared had insisted that the funeral be held at sunset. Eric had fashioned a coffin from wood gathered around the camp. Jared and Steve, refused to let their injuries stop them from digging the grave though it had taken longer than they had liked due to those same injuries but they got it done for Mark.

Anne sat on the porch wrapped in a blanket, tears streaming down her face watching as the people who had saved her gathered to mourn one of their own. She glanced over at the dark haired woman, with the sword who sat at her side. Jill laid a hand on the young girls hand and smiled sadly.

The survivors gathered silently around the newly dug grave in the copse of trees. Jared gazed down into the grave at the coffin his eyes bright with grief. This was my fault, every damn bit of it and Mark had paid the price. They all had paid the price.   He stood there for a moment longer knowing every one was waiting for him to speak.

He had no idea what to say, not really. In the end he gave a few heartfelt words then stepped back so that the others could step forward and speak. One by one the men and women known as the dirty dozen shared stories of Marks life.

As light faded from the sky in reds and gold’s shading to aquamarine and then black and the first stars began to appear. Silence fell disturbed only by the noise of the wind and the soft lilting strains of one of Marks favorite Irish Aires played on the cd player.    The Gray fox air’s gentle haunting melody welcomed the night as Jared and others covered the grave. Jared was the last to leave the grave side, but not before he knelt and placed a hand on the mound of fresh earth “I’m sorry Mark.” He said softly.

Later Jared sat on the back deck of his cabin staring up at the stars spangled across the sky, his arms wrapped around Sharon who leaned against him. “ Thank you” she said, softly tears still sliding down her cheeks. “ for getting him out of there, and for the funeral.” Jared only squeezed her tightly.

“ He was my friend,” Jared said his voice thick with emotion. That was all that mattered, and all that needed to be said.

continue to Part 6

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