Back then ...
We continued down the mountain but I was still shaking from the encounter. It turned out that Ginny was also having some worries of her own. Dean had fallen asleep huddled against the door with a pillow that we'd liberated from the hotel. Sammy was still swiveling looking this way and that since we'd cleared the check point, but from what Sammy said, not the town.
"What's wrong, Ginny?" I felt compelled to ask finally after I saw tears running down her face.
"The zombies. Why are they here? How do they exist???" She started sobbing louder.
I sighed and said, "I don't know. But I am not going to let them harm us. Okay?"
Sadly, I spoke too soon. We were on a tiny road that was winding down the mountain when there suddenly were a dozen people staggering in the middle of the street. They weren't mercs, but zombies. I yelled, "Hold on!"
I braked and spun into the slide until we were turned back up the mountain. Without hesitation we went back up the mountain. I barked out, "Who has a cell?"
Sammy shrugged and Ginny admitted, "I do, why?"
It was Sammy's turn to glare at Ginny. I guess she'd neglected to mention that to him. Cell phones weren't cheap, so I wondered how she got one.
I handed her Will's card and said, "See if you can get my new found friend on the phone."
"Okay." In a minute she handed it saying, "Will's on the line."
Still driving, I grabbed the phone and hoped the cell reception stayed strong enough for me to spit out what needed to be said.
"Yes, who's this?" He sounded confused.
"Oh, sorry I had my cousin's girlfriend call you. This is Lindy. We met earlier." Putting on a huge smile to make my voice sound sweeter I waited for him to catch up.
I could hear his breath quicken as he said, "Just give me a second, okay?"
The idiot didn't hit the mute so I heard him say, "Guys, this is a friend. Give me a minute okay?" I could hear the other mercs shouting out smart ass comments as he walked away. Then I heard him take a quick breath and his voice deepened and he said, "Hi, Lindy, what's up?"
I actually hated to burst his bubble but I wasn't going to play along. "So Will, you know how you asked me to call if I saw anything weird?" I wasn't flirting but from his soft chuckle he still wasn't connecting the dots.
"Uhuh. So like what? Is it snowing harder?" His voice was playful and I wanted to reach through the phone and shake the shit out of him.
Sighing deeply I said, "Will, I know you are zombie hunting. Corral your boys and head down to mile marker ..." I looked at Sammy who called it out and then I heard Will grunt.
"You know about the zombies?" He sounded stunned but I could hear him going back to the boys. The cat-calls were amusing but understandable.
"Yeppers. There are about a dozen zombies in the middle of the road. Knock yourself out, okay?" I clicked the phone off and asked, "So now what? I don't see us getting out of here anytime soon. Do you want to meet up with the mercenaries or find another place to hide?"
Dean said, "No mercenaries!!!" His voice bounced off the windows and he was gripping the back of my seat. I was trying to keep the SUV on the road and couldn't take the time to console the freaked-out man.
Sammy said, "I know a place. It's off the beaten track."
Dean relaxed his grip and fell back into his seat. Ginny took the cell phone from my hand and slipped it back into her purse, but not before Sammy glanced at her with some anger.
I ignored everyone and just let Sammy guide me to the 'off the beaten track' place. We had plenty of supplies, so anything short of a shed could meet most of our needs if not all. I heard an odd noise from the back seat then Ginny said, "I think your mercenary is calling back. You want to take the call?"
Shrugging, I said, "Sure why not?"
She hit some buttons and handed me a live call.
"Hello?" I said while steering carefully around the snow drifts. Thinking about Ginny's cell phone I hoped that she'd brought the charger. The phone very well could save us.
"Lindy, thanks for the tip. We've adjusted the situation there. But I have a question if you don't mind."
His voice had dropped. I waited a beat then said, "Yes?"
"Who told you about the zombies?" He was nearly whispering. I was pretty sure he was trying to be discreet and not let his buddies overhear us. I was thankful because I'd witnessed the boys' reactions to possible compromising situations. I liked my skin tanned, not oven roasted to a crackling crunch.
"Nobody," I admitted while still following Sammy's pointing directions. The road was nearly impassible, but the SUV was kicking ass on the ill-defined lane, and clearing the ever-growing snow drifts and icy patches with ease.
A beat of nothing and then I filled in the silence with, "I ran into some from the last town. That's why I want out of these mountains." I didn't mention seeing his buddies cleaning up the infestation. No need to screw up my chances of living through this crap.
He chuckled then said, "Fair enough. Don't lose my number and don't hesitate to call if you see anything else. Okay?"
Feeling like I got a free pass I said, "Will do. Have to go now, I'm running out of road." With that I flipped off the call and gave the phone back to Ginny saying, "Thanks. Can you yank out your battery for now?"
Sammy looked at me and said, "Cool. So like you already know that they can track you."
Nodding I said, "Yeah, I read stuff. Shocking, huh?"
Silently we continued onto Sammy's hide-away.
It was rustic. That was my first thought. I was also pretty sure that I saw, buried in the snow, a hand pump for well water along with further back on the cleared land in the tree zone, a damn outhouse. That was a little scary, but at the same time, the sight of a huge wood pile along the side of the house was reassuring -- we wouldn't freeze to death at least. We had matches and fuel and that alone was comforting. I was more than a bit happy to hear Sammy say, "Ginny, stop staring at the back of my head like you want in my brain or to just smack me. There is a flush toilet and running water. The electricity is skittish, but they have a propane tank and a generator, so we'll have 'civilization,' okay?"
Ginny laughed and said, "Okay, Sammy. Fair enough. So far you've taken good care of me." Again I felt the attraction between the two kids and wondered if anything good would come of that. Not my business, but if things went south quickly it easily could be.
Dean lifted his head up to ask, "Who is 'they'? And are they going to be here soon to join us?"
Sammy laughed. It was a sadly broken sound."Not unless zombies can walk among us after being cremated. My great uncle and his son owned the property. My grandma's the legal owner now. But my uncle and his son died in the mines a decade or so ago after a bad cave-in that never made the news. They were cremated and their ashes are hanging out in urns somewhere else." That was probably the most Sammy had said in a day as far as I knew. But it reassured me that nobody would think to come looking for us any time soon.
We pulled into the back section of the home parking behind the house so the SUV wasn't visible from the road. Sammy asked Dean if he would go cover up the wheel marks as far down the lane as he could. Dean looked perplexed until Sammy pulled a snow shovel from the shed on the property. Handing it over he said, "Dean, just move the snow around so nobody can follow us here. Okay?"
I watched the light bulb go on and Dean trundled off to move snow. Once he was out of ear shot I had to ask, "Why'd you make him do that? You know that the snow is falling fast enough that our tracks will be totally hidden in probably a few hours tops."
Smiling Sammy said, "Because he's getting loopy and I want to show you and Ginny some of the additions around here before he gets back."
I had to hand it to Sammy -- he'd figured out that Dean wasn't reliable.
Wincing, I put my weight carefully on my bum ankle. I saw Sammy's eyes slide to me and I said, "Ankle's tweaked a bit. Driving made it achy."
He didn't buy it, but he left it alone and we went inside with our loot. It took nearly a half hour to completely empty the car and get everything squared away inside the shack. Who was I kidding? The cabin was pretty damn impressive. Sammy showed Ginny and I how to run everything and where the guns were hidden. It dawned on me that Sammy didn't trust Dean with that information, not like the boring stuff, like how to light the propane stove or flush the toilet.
There was a wood burning stove in the middle of the home, and it took a few tries but eventually with Sammy's instructions, Ginny and I had the stove going. The warmth was amazing and looking at each other, Ginny and I grinned. She dug out her charger and plugged it in. With the warming air and electricity, I felt like we might make it off the mountain. I wasn't thrilled to let her put her battery back in the cell phone, but I didn't see that we had much of a choice. My cell was long gone and strangely, it was a liberating feeling. I'd hadn't realized how closely I'd been tied to the device.
Dean came inside half-frozen and asked, "What's for dinner?"
Stunned we looked at each other, and Ginny said, "Crackers?" She went and found one of the food tubs and tossed Dean some crackers and a wedge of cheese.
I quickly went to the food we'd stored in the fridge once we'd unloaded the car. There were semi-perishables along with fresh stuff that we'd brought with us. Sammy had turned on the fridge when we'd first arrived and the sporadic electricity was working, so it only took about a half hour to cook a 'real' meal. We didn't bother to sit at the table, but ate at the coffee table in front of the stove, warming our bones. All in all it was a decent meal.
Weary and full, we began to set up our sleeping arrangements. There were actually two bedrooms and a loft, so I volunteered to sleep in the loft, knowing that the stove would keep the heat going and it would be warm. Sammy took one of the bedrooms and I wasn't much surprised when Ginny said she'd sleep in his room. That left the second smaller bedroom to Dean and his ghosts. We turned out most of the lights and banked the fire. Sammy said he'd feed it through the nights. Pulling all the heavy curtains over the windows we went to bed, hopeful there was nothing around the place to attract any one or anything.
Soon I could hear them all snoring, while I was in the loft turning over the events of the past day. The cabin was more than I could have prayed for while we were fleeing. That storm hadn't abated and snow was falling steadily and blanketing every inch outside. The stove was pouring out the heat, and yet I was still uneasy. I had no clue what the next day held, but there was nothing I could do. Finally I drifted off.