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“Right,” Serg chimed in. “We’ve got to help each other out.”

“That is what we’re always saying,” Hayley said.

“You know what? I have a great idea,” Boden said excitedly, as if something had just occurred to him. “We have a bottle of vodka downstairs. I could get it, and we could all have a drink to celebrate. How does that sound?”

Louis, Hayley, and Bruce all looked at each other, and they looked quite pleased, like they were getting away with something. Louis especially looked like the cat that’d gotten the canary, and they all chuckled.

“Yeah,” Hayley said, trying not to laugh as she spoke for the group. “That sounds great.”

“Max, why don’t you go up to your room?” I suggested. “You’re too young to drink anyway.”

I thought he might fight me, because he hated to be left out of things, but he didn’t. He just sighed and trudged away. He had to walk past our guests on his way to the stairs, and Hayley reached out and ruffled his hair as he went by. I had to use all my restraint to keep from going over there and ripping her arm off.

“Excellent.” Boden clapped his hands together. “I’ll be right back with the alcohol.”

Boden turned and went downstairs. We had a few bottles of wine off the kitchen, but I knew for a fact that we had no vodka in the house. So I had no idea what Boden was getting in the basement, but I hoped it would help the situation.


Serg and I stood off to the side of the room, waiting for Boden to return, since the guests seemed to fill up the living room. They’d spread out through it, claiming their space already.

None of them talked to us, but Hayley whispered something in Louis’s ear that made him laugh uproariously. He looked at me as he laughed, and it sent a chill down my spine.

“You know what, I’m sorry,” Boden said as he ascended the stairs. “We’re completely out of vodka.”

Then he turned at the top of the stairs, coming out so we could all see him and the crossbow he was carrying. He had it pointed at the ceiling so far, but it was locked and loaded. Bruce growled, and Hayley gasped at the sight of it.

“But I did find this awesome crossbow,” Boden finished.

“Oy!” Louis held up his hands and took a step back. “There’s no need for that!”

“But…” Hayley looked genuinely distressed and confused, and her eyes darted around the room, before settling back on Boden so she could plead with him. “You said you wanted help! We survivors need to join together!”

“I lied.” Boden shrugged. “I don’t trust any of you, and I want you to get the hell out of my house.”

Something about that incensed Louis. He shook his head and swore under his breath. He made a move toward Boden, so Boden dropped the crossbow, pointing it directly at him.

“This isn’t your house!” Louis snapped, but he stopped. “You have no more right to this house than we do!”

“We found it first,” Boden said simply. “That makes it ours, and that makes you intruders.”

“We’re not intruders. We just want …” Hayley started off begging, but when she saw she wasn’t getting anywhere, she changed her strategy entirely.

She’d been leaning on the couch, but she stood up straight. Her expression had been desperate and plaintive, but it shifted to hard anger.

“I’ve walked too far and too long to let something like this go to a couple whiny bitches like you,” Hayley said. “I am not going back out there. So you can either leave now, or we can do this the hard way.”

“The hard way it is then,” Boden said and took aim with the crossbow.

They really didn’t expect him to fire. I didn’t know why not, except that they’d probably been able to prey on the kindness of strangers before. With so few survivors left, it was easy to want to stick together.

But people like Hayley and her crew had made it impossible for that happen.

Louis ran at Boden. Maybe he thought he could get to him before Boden pulled the trigger, but he didn’t. He’d barely made it two steps when the arrow pierced through his neck.

“You son of a bitch!” Hayley screamed.

While Louis clawed at his throat, I made my move. I figured I’d leave the giant for Serg and Boden to take care of, but I could get Hayley out of the way.

I raced over to the fireplace and grabbed a poker. Hayley was rushing towards Boden, who was reloading the crossbow with the quills he’d jammed into his back pocket. That left Serg trying to distract Bruce, who lumbered toward him.

I ran forward and landed on the back of the couch, knocking it back to the ground. Hayley was a few steps away from me, so I swung out wide with the poker. It connected with her back, and she cried out before falling forward on the floor.

Serg chucked a kitchen stool at Bruce, but he smacked it away and it crashed into the banister. Fortunately, Boden had finally reloaded the crossbow, and he fired at Bruce. It went through his ample bicep, but it didn’t really seem to slow him down.

“Why in the hell did you grab a crossbow?” Serg shouted in frustration.

“Cause we had more quills than we had bullets,” Boden said, once again struggling to reload. “It seemed logical!”

Hayley rolled onto her back, and I stood over her. I slammed the poker into her arm, and I could actually hear the bone snapping.

Serg had climbed up on the kitchen counter and grabbed the last kitchen stool. When Bruce came after him, trying to grab him, Serg tried beating him back with the stool. He swung it as hard as he could, and he landed a few good blows on Bruce’s head and arms.