Page 24

We found sanctuary under a bridge on a country dirt road. A wide stream flowed underneath it, but the embankment was high enough that it didn’t appear we’d have to worry about flooding.

Even though it was only afternoon and we usually pressed on until nightfall, we decided to camp out here. The rain didn’t look like it would let up anytime soon, and it would be better to stay somewhere dry.

And with the storm, the zombies would be less likely to find us.  The rain would mask our scent, and the noise would drown us out.

Once we were safe out of the rain, we started setting up camp. Boden got a fire going, which was a nice treat since we usually avoided fires because they could attract zombies.

Bishop had packed a rope in her bag, and she strung it along the embankment from the bridge. From that, she hung up wet clothes to dry out. Stella changed out of her soaking clothes, and Bishop wrapped her in a rather dry sweater that had been shoved deep in one of the bags.

I took off my shirt and wrung it out before putting it back on. There wasn’t much more I could do until my other clothes dried. Boden simply took his shirt off, and he was actually probably warmer that way.

Something about the stream got Max talking about going fishing. Bishop and Teddy made him a makeshift rod using a stick, a bit of string, and a bent safety pin. I’m not sure if he’d be able to catch anything in here, but it didn’t hurt for him to try. It’d give him something to do, and we could use the fresh food if it worked.

Daniels apparently used to fish a lot, so he volunteered to help him. He sat down next to Max on the bank, right close by the stream. I didn’t like him doing anything with Max, but Max seemed to like him.

Even though Daniels had hurt him in the quarantine, doing the kinds of tests he’d done on me, Max had never held it against him. He thought he was a doctor trying to help, and that was good enough for Max.

I was off to the far side of the bridge, using the rain water to try to get dirt and blood out of my clothes, but my eyes were locked on Daniels and Max. I was too far away to hear them, and they had their backs to me, so I couldn’t even read their lips.

Ripley was on the other side of the river, sprawled out on the rocks and licking herself. Lions were social cats, so I think she liked being around us. It was in her DNA to search for a pride. But at the same time, she was still a wild animal, and she liked having some space between us.

Nolita sat by the fire with Stella wrapped up on her lap. I was surprised that Stella was letting Nolita hold her, but Nolita seemed to dote on her, and Stella liked that. Teddy was sitting next to them, also keeping warm.

Boden and Bishop were near me. Bishop was catching the fresh water in bottles, since it was clearer and cleaner than any other water we could find, and Boden was standing watch, the way he always seemed to.

“They’re just talking,” Bishop said.

I glanced back over my shoulder at her, but only for second, then my eyes returned to Daniels and Max. Instead of answering her, I scrubbed hard at the blood on my jeans.

“What do you think he’s going to do to him?” Bishop asked.

I shook my head and shrugged. Daniels must’ve said something funny, because Max laughed loudly, the sound echoing from the bridge. Daniels even laughed a little, too. He looked back, smiling, but when his eyes landed on mine, his smile fell away and he quickly turned around.

“I met him a few times back in the quarantine,” Bishop went on. “He didn’t seem that bad. Distracted and devoted to his work, but not bad.”

“Lay off her, Bishop,” Boden said, his words firm but kind. “If she wants to worry about her kid brother, let her.”

“I’m not trying to stop her from caring,” Bishop said carefully. “I just think there’s better things to worry about.” She’d filled up all the bottles we had, so she straightened up and brushed the dirt from her pants. “But if she wants to waste her energy, so be it.”

She walked away from us, going down to the stream. She crouched down behind Max, watching him as he tried to catch a fish.

Boden had been standing a few feet behind me, but he came down and sat on the ground next to me. He laid his gun across his knees, the barrel pointed out toward the rain.

“Is he the one?” Boden asked, his voice low in case anyone might hear. But with the rain pounding down, I could barely hear him next to me.

“What?” I asked, pulling my eyes away from Max to look back at Boden.

“Is Daniels the doctor that did all that to you?” Boden motioned vaguely over to me, to where he’d seen the marks covering my body. “I mean, was he the one personally?”

“Sometimes,” I admitted and lowered my eyes to focus on my dirty pants. “He dealt with me the most, but for more complicated … procedures, he’d usually pass me off.”

“What did a more complicated procedure entail?” Boden asked.

I flashed back to it for a second. The only difference between the doctors and butchers was that the cows were dead when they started cutting them up. The cows at least got some reprieve.

I shook my head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“They did the same thing to Max as they did to you?” Boden asked.

“I don’t know for sure,” I said. “I haven’t asked him.”

The truth was that I didn’t want to know for sure. I didn’t want to talk about what happened, not with my brother, not with anybody.

“Why?” Boden lowered his voice again. “Why you?”