"But how?" I was puzzled since I hadn't seen any signs of power in the building. The hotel had it, but then it hadn't been that long since everything and everyone went south. But from all signs, this building wasn't powered.
Laughing, Sammy said, "Simple -- some seriously good extension cords from here to the next shop that still has electricity."
"Why don't you use some of that power for lights here?" I didn't understand.
"Lindy, because we really don't need it. We have all that we need, and light inside could attract attention. We're careful to turn off the lanterns when we leave and use the flashlights with the door closed. No use risking getting noticed by those freaks. You know?"
He was right. It was smart and careful. I nodded and said, "Sure."
Ginny looked at the monitor and said, "Wow, it's snowing! I think it'll be sticking and be really bad out there tomorrow."
Dean listlessly looked over and said, "That's bad isn't it?"
Calmly I said, "Only if we were out there. If Sammy and Ginny will allow us to stay with them I think we should be fine."
Sammy and Ginny looked at each other and both said, "Yes!"
I saw the relief on the two teenagers' faces and realized that they had been worried. I don't know if Dean or I made them feel safe but they both looked younger suddenly. Happy to know I wasn't going to have to go out and find another place to stay, I looked over to see Dean looking lost.
"Dean, you want to go?" I know that I sounded incredulous, but damn, that was so wrong. Dean was looking more than a little off, and my worry was that he'd leave and bring back some zombies just to show us that he was right and that zombies didn't exist. And it wouldn't be pretty in the least from there.
He seemed to be thinking of going out into the snow; just at that moment I watched Ginny walk over to him and put a hand on his arm, saying, "Can't you stay and help protect us?"
The look on her face won him over and I was glad. I didn't know if he'd be more use to us here versus far-far-and-away, but at least while he'd be with us lessened the chance for him to betray us. I wasn't confident about Dean's mindset, but with Ginny and Sammy at least there could be witnesses to my demise if things got out of hand.
"Of course, Ginny," Dean gallantly replied. I chalked it up to a win for now.
Sammy murmured something vaguely nasty that I totally ignored. He was a feisty teenager, I had to say that for him even if he was unremorsefully a car thief when it suited him -- not to mention all the loot they'd stockpiled so far. But since we'd be benefiting from that, I figured I'd keep my trap shut for now on that subject. Whenever this all sorted out, I'd make my boss pay the towns folks for the unknown donations. It'd bring good will and excellent publicity. From what the kids, said I was pretty sure that most of the citizens had escaped the zombies or there'd have been more bloodshed. Thinking of that I asked, "Where'd you see the zombies?"
"Down on the edge of town. They were in a small group of like four or five." Ginny said softly.
Sammy cut in with, "I was pretty sure that they weren't a family from around here. We know almost everyone in town. I think they all had been staying at the hotel you guys saw me at." Again he didn't look in the least embarrassed by my seeing him earlier.
Something faltered in my stomach and I forced the words out, "Three of the zombies were kids?"
Sammy's eyes met mine and he looked away before confirming my guess with, "Possibly, or really short adults, like under five foot tall. They weren't normal enough looking to tell. Puffy faces with slices and bruises like they'd been fighting before they were turned."
Disgusted by what he was saying, I was saddened that he'd probably already figured out that they were kids before I'd asked. Ginny again had a stunned look on her face, and I heard her murmur, "I hadn't even thought of that." She didn't bother looking to Sammy for confirmation but just took the gut punch with numbness. Yeah, quite the little group we had going.
Seeing the snow building up was quickly becoming humdrum until I saw a foot enter the corner of the monitor.
"Sammy, do you see that?" I pointed out the foot.
All four of us were glued to the screen as we watched the foot fall into the monitor, with the quickening snow coming down without let up. The foot had turned up from the direction that both Dean and I had just come into town. Then the rest of the man came into view. I heard a gasp and then Dean said, "Hey, that's one of those crazy ass mercenaries, isn't it, Lindy?"
"Or one of his brothers." I wasn't ready to commit to what lunatic was walking by the building.
Then time skipped as four more of the man's cronies stomped into view. Stunned, I watched as they stopped and pulled out a detailed map of what appeared to be the complete town -- houses, buildings and all. Cigars were clenched between teeth and without sound I could still tell that they were discussing the map. One of the men pulled out a red Sharpie -- the words clear on the monitor -- and he casually put a few large X marks over some houses what appeared to be on the outskirts of town where the hotel was. Mentally I put a large X mark on the hotel with the notation to only visit in the middle of the day heavily armed. We had to get the SUV we'd liberated, and all the supplies, but from the way the men were hopping around and gesturing, I was pretty sure that they'd visited those places, and the buildings were no longer hosting either humans or zombies. Some things I could figure out without words. From the soft gasps Ginny and Sammy let escape, they had quickly clued in, while Dean was humming softly beneath his breath. It took me nearly a minute to figure out he was humming Christmas songs! I wanted to turn to him and slap him past Christmas and into the next decade. The look in his eyes stopped me. He was totally checked out and on his own planet yet again. I was happy Ginny had distracted him from leaving. Heaven only knew what he'd do if he'd run into those guys.
They slapped each other on their backs, and exited out of view towards the center of town.
Ginny said in a near whisper, "Those guys are scary. Who are they?"
"More like a 'what' are they. Near as I can figure, government-sanctioned clean up crews for the zombies. They shot and then torched a bunch of zombies in the town we came from earlier." I replied equally quietly.
Dean started sobbing softer than we could nearly hear, and then it dawned on me that one of those guys could easily have been who killed his girlfriend Shelly. Without a word, he lurched for the door, and Sammy tackled him to the floor saying, "No fucking way, Dude!"
Dean tried to shake the kid off of him but wasn't able to, and Sammy held tightly and added, "They won't be happy to see you. I know the type. They are stone-cold killers."
I had to hand it to Sammy, he was right on about the mercenaries. I knew that they wouldn't ask any questions but simply kill anyone they saw. As far as they were concerned, we were all prey and it was open season.
Ginny again did her part and knelt down in front of him saying, "Please don't leave. Those men scared me. Can you stay and watch out for them and make sure they don't come here to kill us?"
Just like that, the energy went out of Dean and he deflated. Sammy rolled off of his back and flashed Ginny a thumbs up sign and a huge grin. Ginny blushed and we all turned away and allowed Dean to get up and slink back to the executive chairs.
"Oh, let me get something for us to eat." Ginny ran around the room and quickly assembled snacks from various stashes and napkins from the plastic bins of dry goods. Dean joined us as we all sat on the air mattress watching the live monitor like it was the NBC comedy lineup of must-see shows. Sammy had pulled out some juice boxes so we all sipped like pre-schoolers on break. But it was good because the tension coming off of Dean dissipated and we had some nourishment.
Eventually we decided to sleep. I was worn out and the snow was causing the temperature to drop. Sammy had liberated a few more air mattresses and sleeping bags in the event the temps went below zero. It was probably in the mid-twenties before it was even night, but we were all tired and soon snuggled in our own sleeping bags on air mattresses. Ginny had Sammy get a few pillows -- no pillow cases -- but I wasn't complaining. Before too much longer, I could hear the kids snoring and Dean weeping softly before his crying dropped off and he fell asleep. I kept glancing to the monitor glowing in the corner, and found myself mesmerized by the falling snow. Eventually that lulled me into sleep and I gave into my dreams.
I woke with a start, not knowing where I was. I didn't know what had dragged me out of sleep until I saw Dean sneaking out of the room. He'd just opened the door and was standing on the threshold. The light from the monitor lit him up. Stunned, all I wanted was one of the guns I'd shoved in my backpack to shoot his ass. I remembered that I actually had the keys to the car. My conscience, knowing how broken he was, warred with my sense of self-preservation -- wanting to live won.
Loudly I called out, "Dean, what the hell are you doing?"
Both Sammy and Ginny bolted upright and Dean froze.
Stammering he said, "Going out for some fresh air. Why?"
"I don't know ... maybe because there is like a foot of snow outside, and all you are wearing seems a bit light." We all looked at him in the doorway.
Finally I said, "You really want to go. Do it. We'll be gone and the next time I see you, I promise that I will kill you."
Tough words from a real estate gal but I meant it. I watched my words run over him and finally sink in. He fell down crying, "But they killed Shelly."
"Yes, they did. And they will kill you without hesitation much less a blink of one of their blood shot eyes. Everyone here is to be killed. Why can't you see?" I spit out, angry at Dean's stupidity.
I saw a dull bulb illuminating over Dean's head as he finally seemed to process what I was saying.
"Wow, I hadn't thought of that." He muttered while trying to look innocent and failing.
Ginny looked to me and nodded and I let her talk.
"Dean, why can't you stay to protect us? Those guys with cigars looked really scary. Aren't you going to help?" I had to commend her. Ginny pitched it just the right tone without sounding like she was manipulating him -- which she certainly was.
He fell for it and replied. "I'll stay. Sorry, I thought it would be best if I went out and pulled them away from here." A nice lie, because they'd already left hours before, but I didn't bother to say a word.